Editor’s Note: This is a continuation of our core conversation on “Great Connections Lead to Great Ideas.” Yesterday, Andrea Lee reminded us that great connection starts within. Today, Adelaide Lancaster writes about using other people’s handprints to help shape your business.
When people come to visit our space to learn more about our business offering, they give the same feedback upon hearing the list of features and benefits, “what a cool idea” or “that’s so useful.” I almost always have the same reply: “I thought so too. One of our members thought of it.” I joke that there aren’t enough footnotes in the world to properly attribute all the good ideas we’ve received and incorporated into our company. It’s so rewarding to walk around my business and see the fingerprints of our clients, colleagues and community.
This was not always the case. As a nascent entrepreneur I remember believing that it was my job to know everything, especially when it came to my business. While I was always grateful for the good ideas that others gave me, but I would also think self consciously, “I should have thought of that.” I also believed, foolishly, that it was important to have clear and resolute answers and to never say “I don’t know.” Boy, was I foolish.
Entrepreneurship is all about being a work in progress.
You spend more time deciding where you want to go next then you do arriving there. It turns out that pretending to know everything comes a tremendous cost. Not only does it make the business of being an entrepreneur much harder than it needs to be, it also cuts you off from the most valuable resource you have – the ideas and experiences of others. Thankfully, I wised up and started to listen – carefully.
Over the years I’ve learned that it’s my peers and colleagues that make my business (and experience of entrepreneurship) go from good to great. I’m certain that my network is my biggest asset and secret weapon. The more ideas, feedback, and suggestions I can solicit, the better – for me and my business.
Here are four easy, sure-fire behaviors that encourage others to share more.
1. Give freely.
The more ideas, connections, resources, and suggestions I give, the more I receive. Plain and simple. I don’t think you can be too generous, unless of course, you’re giving away your services for free.
2. Present the imperfect.
Sharing your questions is a good way to get answers. People are much more hesitant to lend their two cents when you wrap everything up with a neat bow. Instead share what you do know, then share what you don’t, then listen!
3. Really listen.
Not everyone thinks and experiences things the same way, so getting and understanding different perspectives is very valuable. Also remember that usually it’s the most critical feedback that’s the most helpful.
4. Thank people.
Do your part to show that you’re a good listener and receiver of feedback. Let your peers know that you appreciate their perspective and suggestions, even when you don’t take them. And most importantly, give idea credit where credit is due.
I’m curious: Whose handprints have helped shape your business? What handprints are you leaving for others?
More about Adelaide: Adelaide Lancaster is an entrepreneur, speaker and co-author of The Big Enough Company: Creating a business that works for you (Portfolio/Penguin). She is also the co-founder of In Good Company Workplaces, a first-of-its-kind community, learning center and co-working space for women entrepreneurs in New York City. She is a contributor to The Huffington Post, and a columnist for The Daily Muse and The Hired Guns. She lives in Philadelphia, PA with her husband and daughter.
Archan Mehta says
I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for your contribution and appreciate Charlie for featuring you on his excellent blog.
Thank you also for sharing your photo. It seems like you have a photogenic personality and look like a Hollywood star.
In fact, nobody has all the answers: after all, nobody’s perfect. Instead of perfection, we can, however, aim for excellence. Excellence means that we don’t try to do everything on our own, keep an open mind, and start to ask other people for their views and opinions.
I have noticed that too many conversations end because we tend to interrupt others when they are struggling to express themselves. So it is important to let the other person finish his/her sentences. This is especially true for non-native speakers and people from other nations or cultures who may want to do business with you. There are billions of people on planet earth for whom English happens to be a tertiary language: such people may be more accustomed to speaking in their native, mother (first) language.
With business crossing borders, it is more important than every before to pick up other languages and dialects. Today, foreign language training is a booming business and that trend is likely to continue well into the future as companies start to move overseas.
Equally important: sponsor socials: parties, pot-lucks, get-togethers, barbecues, etc.
Invite your customers or clients to share a meal. Negative emotions dissolve over a dinner or lunch table. When people feel welcome, they tend to reveal more about themselves and there can be a meaningful exchange of ideas. You can swap stories and learn from each other. A lot of business deals have been clinched this way, that is, through personal, face-to-face meetings and interactions. And if you are a good host or hostess, your clients will remember you for it. Above all, people appreciate the personal touch in a world that is becoming increasingly impersonal. Cheers.
Carolee a.ka. Blogging Biz Mom says
I learn from every blog and website I visit!
I totally agree with give, give, give..it always comes back to you in a positive way!
And also, don’t be afraid to admit mistakes you have made!
Thanks for the informative post!
Have a wonderful day!
Megan Elizabeth Morris says
While I was always grateful for the good ideas that others gave me, but I would also think self consciously, “I should have thought of that.”
Ha, I do that! I’ve been endeavoring to do it less, go easier on myself and be respectful of a universe where I don’t always know everything, and I’m not always right. Getting better at it all the time. ;}
The people around us have *so much* to teach us. Our imperfections make us perfect. And I love your list, it’s fantastic!
Very inspiring and great info for all professionals! Thanks for your thoughts! 🙂
Tami -- Teacher Goes Back to School says
This book looks great. I would love to read it.
Oh my god…Adelaide, I’m so happy to have found you and read your words. This one fits just in my life as a business owner right now. I’m actually in a place right now where I feel like something new has to happen with my way of doing business. I have always felt like I should be the expert a everything, but I have experienced that rather than being a expert I should facilitate knowledge and expertise in my business.
I really hope to win the book – it would take me even further on my present journey.
I was a good blogger, very passionate about my subject and pretty handy at marketing as i love networking. I thought i was all i needed. How wrong could i be. I met up with a techie guy. You know the type, where it may take me a day to sort out some coding he could do it in minutes. We partnered up, and our internet business has boomed. I couldn’t have done it myself. Was a great thing to learn.
Charlie Gilkey says
Forgot to say: two lucky ducks will win a copy of her new book. Read the post to see how!