A Sliver of Light

things that don't makes sense

Things that don’t make sense have more potential than things that do. Things that make sense confirm, stabilize, or enhance things you already know.

Things that don’t make sense are slivers of light slipping through cracks in floors.


I asked, former Sr. V.P. at Apple, Jay Elliot (JE), “What advice do you most frequently give?”

Jay replied:

  1. Know where you are going.
  2. Have passion for the product and the process.
  3. Have passion for your talent.
  4. It’s about the people.

While Jay talked, I jotted down notes and follow-ups. I had a question about #3. “Passion for whose talent, yours or theirs?” I assumed he meant his own but wanted clarification.

JE: Passion for their talent. Success is about getting, and keeping great talent.

LF: How do you get the most out of top talent?

JE: Be open.

Things stopped making sense. I expected more than two words. I expected multiple steps, difficult procedures combined with motivational theory. “What do you mean, ‘Be open.’” Surprisingly, he replied with still fewer words.

JE: Listen.

Jay continued by explaining that if you hire the best people you should listen to them. Explore their ideas. Don’t put people down when they make suggestions.

His comments reminded me of Peter Ducker’s insights about knowledge workers. Specialized knowledge workers know more than their managers. Only the dumbest managers refuse to listen to smart people.

JE: “Don’t take yourself too seriously.”

Jay shared that he loves humor; a touchy subject in many environments. He gave the usual caveats like, avoid sarcasm and practical jokes.

He enjoys situational humor. Most importantly, he makes fun of himself.

Hmmm, Listening and self-deprecating humor help get the most from great talent. What I hadn’t understood, at the beginning, became a sliver of light.


This is pt. 3 of my conversation with Jay Elliot. Jay is an entrepreneur and author of, “The Steve Jobs Way: ileadership for a new Generation.”

Pt. 1: Plan execution: From an Apple Sr. V.P.

Pt. 3: How was Jay Elliot Changed by Steve Jobs

How can managers get the most out of great talent?