Being Wrong in Business
Written by Andrew Goldman for Gaebler Ventures
Being wrong is part of human nature. Don't stand alone on an island. Encourage discussion within your company and listen to the advice and opinions of those around you.
If you've started up your own business or are running the show, you feel the pressure of being the engine that makes the machine run.
You are involved in every major decision the company makes and your opinion can trump virtually anyone else in the organization.
As a result, the need for you to be correct and make the right decisions is increasingly important. Indeed, a small business with limited resources can crumble due to one poor decision.
There is good news, however. It's okay for you to be wrong, as long as you can accept it.
Part of human nature is our knack for making mistakes. No matter how successful your track record or how many correct decisions you've made, understand that you are human and you make mistakes. By understanding that you will eventually be wrong, you can set up a safety net to nip these problems in the bud.
One of the keys to taking a small business to the next level is surrounding yourself with the right people. Your resources may be strapped and you may not be able to hire the top-notch personnel in your industry. This is not necessarily a bad thing. What you do need to be aware of, however, is that the people you surround yourself need to be more than "yes-people". You should encourage your employees to speak their mind and challenge you when they disagree with a decision.
Obviously, you have the ace in the hole. If there is a disagreement, you have the final say. Encouraging your employees to disagree and bring to light other points of view will help you objectively determine a proper course. Too often we become blinded with our own line of thinking that a better, more practical solution eludes us. By encouraging your employees to do more than agree, you can tap into other ideas and ways of thinking.
Your employees will benefit from this open-dialogue system as well. It is important that your employees feel they are an active part of the organization. By encouraging and listening to their opinions, you are creating a culture of learning and discussion.
This is an atmosphere that breeds strong employees and allows you to retain solid employees without having to spend major dollars.
I consulted for an individual who did not value his employee's opinions. He had a history of successful decision making and did not trust his employee's decisions.
In speaking with his employees, I heard a number of great ideas and a number of improvements that never reached the CEO. His employees had great knowledge of the company and its customers. They knew how to fix many of the problems that the CEO was tackling in his head. By bridging the gap between the employees and the CEO, we were able to tap into an entire new world of decision making.
It's okay to be wrong. It is not a sign of weakness; it's a sign of being human. Create a system that challenges you and can catch potential mistakes. Make sure you're involving your employees and listening to their ideas. If they do not feel comfortable discussing issues with you then you will never be able to use one of your greatest resources, your employees' intellectual capital.
Andrew Goldman is an Isenberg School of Management MBA student at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. He has extensive experience working with small businesses on a consulting basis.
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