I’d like to think that I’m right all the time, that I always have all the answers, that I approach every challenge from the right perspective.
Let’s be honest—we’d probably all like to think that of ourselves.
But the truth is, that’s not the case for any of us. The difference between great leaders and failed leaders isn’t that the great leaders always know the right answer. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Great leaders recognize that they don’t have all of the answers and make an effort to surround themselves with others who can offer valuable input.
We’ve seen throughout history, in politics, in war, or in business, that leaders who never have their ideas challenged are doomed to make costly mistakes.
This sounds obvious… but here’s a newsflash: as a small business owner, there’s a good chance that you are doing exactly the same thing.
Take a moment to evaluate your decision making process. Whose input do you seek before making an important decision? Do you do it by yourself, do you consult one or two company leaders, or do you seek input from employees at every level?
At this point, you probably know that the right answer is “employees at every level.” I can tell you firsthand that the potential gain in seeking multiple perspectives far outweighs the time you spend doing so.
It is one thing to recognize the importance of seeking input from multiple perspectives, but making t happen can be difficult. Here are several suggestions to help. These have worked for me, and for many of my clients.
Hold monthly meetings solely to solicit constructive feedback. Ideally these meetings would be in small groups (no more than four to eight employees) so that participants aren’t afraid to speak up. Explain that you are looking for any sort of feedback that would improve the organization and open the floor. These meetings don’t have to take longer than ten to twenty minutes and they don’t have to be formal!
Demand criticism during your weekly management meetings. When you meet with your management team, don’t simply ask for input. Demand criticism—even if it means that someone must play devil’s advocate. It is one thing to point out flaws in a plan when you see them—it’s another to actively look for them. This can take some getting used to, but trust me, it’s worth it!
Seek input and feedback before you make a final decision. It’s surprisingly common—leaders spend hours crafting a plan before they look for advice. At that point, your mind is generally closed to other perspectives, and you’ve invested so much into your plan that you are going to be resistant to change.
The best leaders constantly expose themselves and their ideas to criticism. It’s not always easy, but I promise you that it’s worth it.