From Richard Branson’s The Virgin Way he talks about the 7 most important words for leaders to use. “I’m not sure, what do you think?” puts your staff at ease, makes everyone around you feel like you aren’t a know-it-all and willing to implement other people’s ideas.
When you ask others for their ideas you get more options to choose from. You incentivize people coming to you with innovative solutions to organizational problems. Today’s best businesses empower their people to share ideas up the chain of command. As a leader, the less ideas you come up with to implement, the more champions you’re building up around you. Also, when you adopt your staffs’ ideas, you’re creating a very important incentive for your people to want to offer their ideas (very few organizations actually care about what their frontline employees think, let alone ideas they have).
When you ask others what they think, what you’re really saying is “I actually care about you and what you think of this organization”. As funny as that sounds, unfortunately most organization leaders don’t think their people are that smart, they’ve built up a facade that business is run by executives and the people who where suits to work everyday. When it really comes down to it, the best organizations have the best people on the front lines, and no, for the most part they don’t where suits.
I think we all can learn a lot from what Mr. Branson has taught us about business. Below are a few of my favourite quotes.
Success is falling down 7 times but getting up 8. I believe one of the best characteristics a person can posess is persistence. Without it there is no progress. You must learn to deal with this at a young age.
To be remarkably amazing at business you don’t need to know everything, actually, the less you know the more approachable you’ll be, arguably making you better at business. Richard, in a famous story tells about the time at a board meeting he was called out for not knowing what the difference between net and gross.
We have this idea that successful people are brilliant and know everything and don’t make mistakes. In fact the opposite might be true. You don’t have to be overly intelligent, you must just be able to deal with failure incredibly well.
Remember, no one likes a no-it-all.
You can call them employees or brand ambassadors but they will perform to the expectation you set. “Brand ambassadors” grow your company, make the right decisions on behalf of the company and always have the future vision of the company in mind. Employees work 9-5, hate Mondays and look forward to the weekend. Employees talk bad about their company on the weekend, they hate their job enough to brag about how much they get paid or the amount of vacation time they get. “Employees” are just there for the paycheck, they don’t care about your company, when push comes to shove, when shit hits the fan, will your employees have your back?
Brand ambassadors do.
Richard talks about listening within the first couple chapters. Listening as a leader is one of the most important tasks to learn, understand and get better at. Being a keen listener is a very underrated characteristic in people.
Counterintuitive isn’t it. But think of the companies that you love. Not the ones you like, I mean the ones you love. The ones that if they went away you’d be upset, the companies you couldn’t live without. How do you fell about their service? I bet they’ve really impressed you on more than one occasion. That’s because the best customer service companies are always thinking of better, smarter ways for breaking your expectations.
Asking simple questions is overrated. I would encourage at your next strategic planning session to discuss some elementary questions about your organization. You’d be surprised as to how many people around the table didn’t know the “obvious” answer.