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.