Aicha Evans’ One Best Question
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Aicha Evans is the senior vice president and chief strategy officer at Intel Corporation. She’s responsible for driving Intel’s long term strategy to transform it from a PC-centered company to a data-centered company. Here, she shares her best question aimed at helping people become both more aware and self-aware.
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Michael: This is Michael Bungay Stanier, this is The Coaching Habit Podcast. We always have a long interview with our guests, or a longer interview. But one of my favorite parts of it is the shorter, sort of off-cut interviews that we do. And one of the focuses of those interviews is our guest’s favorite question. Because you know, for us, we’re all about, as a firm committed to coaching practice, how do you slow down the rush to action and advice? How do you stay curious a little bit longer? And of course, questions are the fuel of curiosity.
I am so excited to find out what my current guest’s favorite question is because Aicha Evans is the Senior Vice President and Chief Strategy Officer at Intel Corporation. And if strategy is anything, it’s wrestling with difficult questions to try and find a path through. So this is going to be great.
She’s responsible for driving Intel’s long-term strategy to transform from a PC-centric company to a data-centric company. And if you’re curious about that, make sure you hear the longer interview Aicha and I had because we get into that a little bit. And previously, Aicha was the general manager for the communications and device group, managing all sorts of different products within Intel, as well as emerging ones, technologies such as 5G.
Aicha, how are you?
Aicha Evans: I’m very well. How are you?
Michael: I am well. You know, we met with Marshall Goldsmith and his 100 Coaches project, and so we’re in this, we’re swimming in the ocean of people who are interested in curiosity and questions. And I’m so interested to find out … I mean, I know you ask lots of questions, but if you had one that was a favorite, a reliable question that you kind of leaned on, what would that be?
Aicha Evans: Why does it matter to you, and why is it worthy?
Michael: Ah. What’s the power of that question, for you?
Aicha Evans: The power of the question, to me, is first of all, people just, we have a bias for what I call activity and action, as opposed to standing back, reflecting. By the way, being both aware and self-aware, understanding that when we are, usually when we are doing something, we’re doing it with other people or other companies or other partners. And if we’re not quite clear about why is it we need to do this together, what’s in it for them, what’s in it for us, what’s our rationale?
And I have this thing, when you’re having a one-on-one with yourself, a one-on-one, meaning a meeting with yourself.
Aicha Evans: Preferably at home, end of the day, right before you go to sleep, where nobody is seeing you, nobody is judging you, you can’t hide from yourself. That’s for sure. And really ponder, because if you’re not clear about that …
First of all, let’s say you’re doing it for ego, let’s say you’re doing it only for reward, let’s say you’re doing it only for yourself. It’s going to come through. In how you are interacting with the other person, or with the other company, or with the other partner.
Second thing is, if you don’t understand why it’s important to the other person, same issue is going to happen. So being really rooted into that. And if it’s a negative thing, how do you add some positive? And if it’s already positive, how do you temper? Because just because it’s super cool to you doesn’t mean … and super clear … doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to be to the other party.
Michael: You talk about, when you kind of review for what reason are you doing this for yourself, and you talked about some of the reasons it might not be satisfactory, like immediate reward or ego. It feels implicit in that there are some bigger reasons why you might do something, that are more important. What are you looking for as an answer for, I have to be able to take this box or this box or this box for us to commit to that? Does that make sense as a question? It’s a bit convoluted.
Aicha Evans: I think, yes. I get it. My personal philosophy is that any interaction has to end up in a win-win, for it to be healthy and sustainable. If you’re very clear about what’s a win, on your end, but you have the generosity to at least start understanding why it would be a win on the other end too, you’ve already made tons of steps, into the greater good of achieving the goal.
Second of all, I think it prepares you for asking yourself the next set of questions, which is, why is it important? How is this going to work? What’s the end goal? What are the steps? What’s the road map? I don’t want to say it’s helping to put up a plan because plans, people think about a series of tasks. But at least a road map to get to the end goal.
It also helps you put into place monitors and triggers. And think about, these are the assumptions I’m making, what if they don’t come true? What if they were wrong? How will I adjust? And so on and so forth. I’ve found it to just be very good, in terms of the essence. Now, by the way, I always say, “With that will come the reward,” Right? Whether it’s money, whether it’s promotion, whether it’s achievement and success. Those are outcomes.
They are the consequence of having achieved, and focusing on that, I think is key. And so I guess I’m going to go back to impact, achievement, and the reason why that’s important, after what I consider to be the compass.
Michael: Beautiful. And I love how in all of your answers, in this conversation and the previous conversations we’ve had, you’re constantly a champion for the generosity, for seeing the other side, for understanding that there’s more than one point of view in the world, and one way of standing and showing up in the world. And kind of being that bridge and a blend between these different points of view. It’s really wonderful to see.
Aicha Evans: Thank you, I appreciate that. You know, with the democratization of information and expertise, through not just the formal education system, but through the Internet, and through the … just costs have come down. There are seven-something billion of us. We all have very different brains, and we come from different environments, and walk a different path. To think that there is only one single absolute point of view, to me … It always cracks me up when I run into folks who have that viewpoint. I’m like, “Seriously, really? Wow. Good luck with a very interesting life, and I hope it’s not too miserable for you.”
Michael: Right, exactly. Get used to disappointment because it’s probably not going to play out the way you think.
Aicha Evans, Senior Vice President and Chief Strategy Officer at Intel Corporation, thank you so much.
Aicha Evans: Thank you. I appreciate it.