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The Boss Is Talking: A Guide To Conversing With Employees Who Know More Than You

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

/ by Nurdin Budi Mustofa
The Boss Is Talking: A Guide To Conversing With Employees Who Know More Than You
If a business is successful enough, there will come a time when your employees know more about the business than you do.

On one hand, that can difficult to deal with. That’s your business; your ideas, sweat, and determination built it up from nothing into a profitable enterprise that can now offer other people a way of earning a living. You’ve recognized that no entrepreneur can be everything to their business; that you have to bring in others with specialties and understanding that you lack. It’s part of being a smart business leader.

On the other hand, it’s also incredibly difficult to deal with! Not just because you’ve lost track of the basics of your business somewhere, but because eventually, some of those employees will know more about your business than you do. Or, they may have a technical or commercial knowledge that you don’t - yet you’re still in charge of what they do.

This can lead to a few sticky conversations and even arguments. Employees have to be treated with respect, but it can also be tough to learn to bow to their expertise. No one likes to admit there’s something that they don’t know; it’s all the more difficult when it’s an aspect of your own company that’s on the line.

So how do you do it?

Do Say: “Tell Me What You Need”

If an employee is helping you brainstorm the next steps for your business or solve problems, then ask them directly what they need to move on from the obstacle in front of them. Listen to their justification rather than outright refusing. If possible, get everything written down, and then ask for some time to consider their request.

Don’t Say: “Here’s What You Need”

If your IT pro tells you he needs to run fixes on computers, source components from icrfq, and then take three weeks to do the work - then that’s what they think is necessary. If you immediately fire back with an alternative - especially if it’s something you don’t really understand - then you’re in a bad position. Not only do you come across like a boss who isn’t listening, but also slightly foolish for trying to pretend to know something they are actually clueless about.

Do Say: “Work With Me To Find A Solution”

If you find you don’t have the time or budget to go along with their request verbatim, then don’t overrule them - ask for them to engage with you. Sit down together and see where you can lower the cost, or potentially bring in more help to allow you to reduce the timescale of the project at hand.

The Boss Is Talking: A Guide To Conversing With Employees Who Know More Than You

Don’t Say: “I Know What I’m Talking About…”

… If you don’t. It doesn’t matter if it’s consumer preferences or tough tech savvy; if you don’t really know what you’re talking about, don’t say that you do. You have employees because there are gaps in your knowledge or time; and that’s fine! Just own up to it and ask their opinion. Losing the respect of your employees can be a death knell for a business, so avoid this at all costs.

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