Small Business Advice
Do you know what you don't know?
Q: I have several employees who are quite vocal and think they are being helpful with their suggestions. However, I feel they are undermining my authority. What do you suggest?
A: It has been said that “A smart man knows what he knows, but a wise man knows what he doesn’t know.”
We humans all too often accept opinions of others we agree with as fact and disregard any dissenting opinions. Our current two-party system of government is a prime example and leads to dysfunction where nothing of substance is accomplished.
This type of mentality has no place in the workplace. Owners and managers who think they know it all really miss the boat when they rely only on their intuition and disregard the opinions of others.
Some years ago I became aware of a personality testing system developed by a company called Myers-Briggs. Based on their answers to questions people are identified as being one or a combination of several personality types.
No one personality type is best or better than any other. Instead its goal is simply to help you learn more about yourself. The questionnaire is made up of four different scales; Extravert-Introvert, Sensing-Intuition, Thinking-Feeling, and Judging-Perceiving.
After taking the test I was assigned a 4-letter grade, ENTP or extravert, intuitive, thinking, perceiving. In a nutshell, I was found to be a “big picture” idea guy, with varying interest in the many details necessary to facilitate the goals.
Others taking the test were rated as ISTJ’s or introvert, sensing, thinking, judging. These individuals were found to be more cautious and detailed oriented; the exact types to help me realize my goals.
This was an eye-opening experience for me because I came to realize that I must listen to and respect the opinions and experiences of others. These included friendly competitors and, most importantly, my good and loyal employees.
Going forward I went out of my way to encourage creative thinking among the staff. We held monthly staff meeting where employees felt comfortable in sharing suggestions and ideas that they thought would add value to both the operational and sales goals of our independent insurance agency.
In conclusion, I would add that a wise man not only knows what he doesn’t know but has the good sense to ask questions and value the opinions of others, even if in direct conflict with your own. There is always more than one way of doing things.
Gray Poehler is a volunteer with the Naples Chapter of SCORE.
A SCORE counselor since 2005, Gray Poehler owned and operated an independent insurance agency with 20 employees and two locations. He has earned the Certified Insurance Counselor designation and is familiar with both personal and commercial property and casualty insurance. Areas of expertise include: Business Finance and Accounting; Business Strategy and Planning; Business Operations; Human Resources and Internal Communications; Sales, Marketing and Public Relations.
To learn more about management issues of small businesses, contact the SCORE office nearest you.