Better recall, less distraction, and self-awareness on steroids
I screwed up.
Last week I found out my startup would need to spend a few thousand dollars in legal expenses to convert from an LLC to a C-corp. The reasons are too boring to go into, but suffice it to say we don’t have a choice and it’s going to be expensive.
Which is frustrating, because I remember a call I had with our lawyer about this very topic three months ago. I pushed for doing a C-corp, so why would he advise me to do the LLC?
Fortunately, that call took place while we were in the testing phase of our new app, Jog.ai, which records and transcribes conference calls automatically.
Yesterday I went back to the tape, expecting to find clear evidence that the lawyer pressured us into doing an LLC for some selfish reason. I pulled up the conversation in Jog and typed “LLC” in the search bar to jump to the relevant part of the discussion.
The second I heard my own voice I knew I was completely in the wrong. Here’s basically how it went:
In short, my memory was completely off and our predicament was my fault, not the lawyers.
1) Your Memory Will Lie To You
The first thing you learn when you record your calls is how fickle memory can be. For me at least, memory tends to be a liar. And usually, it lies to make me feel better about myself.
I consider myself a fairly self-aware person, but almost every time I refer back to a recorded call I learn something unexpected about how I interact with others. Often it’s small things, like a personal detail about a client or how big a laugh a joke got. Occasionally, I forget important details like which side of a point I argued for.
Now I’ve gotten into the habit of double-checking myself before I take action based on how I remember something. Whenever I doubt who said what, or what a vendor committed to, or whether or not I agreed to an absurd timeline, I quickly “go back to the tape.” Occasionally this is vindicating, but more often it’s humbling and educational.
2) It’s Easy to Sound Dumb (And Even Easier to Fix)
There are other less complicated lessons from recording calls, and this one is fairly straight-forward — I sound less intelligent when I use disfluencies such as “like,” “uh,” and “um.” Everyone knows we shouldn’t overuse these filler words, yet like most of us I hadn’t taken the time to correct it. The call recordings made me painfully aware of this.
In Jog transcripts, filler phrases like “uh” and “um” are replaced with “….” so when we search for disfluencies we see something like this:
Five “ums” in 15 seconds of conversation is painful. Don’t get me started on the word “like.”
Since first testing this, I’ve gotten into the habit of searching for disfluencies after most calls and just this awareness alone has produced rapid improvement.
3) Spoken Word Is Often More Powerful Than Text
I’ve done a lot of sales work, which means I spend a lot of time advocating internally to creative teams about new client prospects. Unfortunately, from the team’s perspective, many of my pitches sound the same. Using my notes from the call I’ll tell the team about how the client is “really excited to work with us” or how they “sound like someone we’d really get along with.” Our team has heard it all before.
But something changes when I’m able to share audio from the actual conversation. Usually I’ll just use Jog to highlight key moments and share the conversation link in Slack. Something special happens when they hear the genuine excitement in the client’s voice. Perhaps it’s the ability to hear inflection or changes in tone, but whatever the case, the audio files paired with the transcripts seem to be far more effective than traditional call notes when advocating for new clients.
4) Taking Notes Traditionally Is Actually Very Distracting
I used to be so proud of the lengthy notes I took during calls. These days I can’t imagine diverting so much mental energy away from the actual conversation.
I’ve noticed during recorded calls that I’m much more present simply because I’m not worried about note taking. As result these meetings tend to be more fluid, and I’m better able to adapt to what the client is saying. To keep track of important things that come up, I simply drop flags in real-time with a tap on my phone. Then after the meeting I spend about 5 minutes creating highlights using the timestamps from those flags.
A nice and unexpected finding was that it seems that the audio paired with the transcript text does a better job of jogging my memory than traditional notes when I refer back to call audio weeks or months later.
5) People Are Happier When You Shut Up
Before starting the company I spent some time interviewing prospective customers at marketing agencies. The thinking was that agencies would love to record calls with clients because having a 100% accurate recording would mean they never have to go back to the client to re-ask the same question.
The interviews were generally informative but some were clearly more insightful than others. And some just had a feeling of better rapport. I recorded each interview on my iPhone and uploaded them all to Jog so I could share them with our team. But I was also curious if Jog could provide any insights into why some customer interviews went better than others.
So, I created tags in Jog.ai for “informative” and “uninformative.” Cruising through the conversations in each category made one thing instantly clear — the worst interviews were the ones where I spent the most time talking (Jog makes it easy to see speaking ratios). Of course this makes intuitive sense, but I would never have guessed how frequently I spoke up in some of the interviews.
After seeing these results it became much more clear to me how important it is to listen and how to structure customer interviews so that interviewees felt more comfortable speaking up.
Self-Awareness on Steroids.
After recording business calls for a few months, I can’t imagine going back to traditional note taking. Having a 100% accurate record of calls simply makes me more honest with myself and with my team. It also improves how I communicate with others by increasing my own awareness of how fallible memory can be.