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Wednesday, June 03, 2009


Successful businesspeople surround themselves with trusted advisers and key employees who are never afraid to speak their minds. The last thing we want or need are "yes men" who try to mirror what they think we want, and then do exactly what they are told to do.

Of course, if you have great advisers who disagree with each other, with distinctive personalities and attitudes, sometimes tensions arise, and sometimes you miss the real point in the noise. As one of my consultants, Bill Caswell, reminded me yesterday, you need to separate out the emotions before you make your decisions.

Of course, you also need to listen to your emotions and your first gut reactions. If something doesn't "seem" right, it often isn't. The challenge is to determine if the superficial cause of your emotional reaction reflects the underlying issue, or is actually masking the real problem.

I sense a business is healthiest when your advisers represent a cross-section of values, outlooks and approaches, but they are not so far apart from each other (and the spirit and mood of your key employees, who also are often advisers), that they cause conflict so great that the business strains to the cracking point.

(Of course, it can be a challenge when an adviser, concerned you are heading to a train wreck, goes out of his or her way to shout out the message: Do you take the reaction as a way-off-base emotion, or is the warning real. The best answer: Don't act rashly, but don't ignore the message).

Our best clients and key suppliers also, of course, can be in the advisory group. We need to filter their observations and advice through their perspectives (and ours, of the nature of the relationship), but if we fail to listen to the marketplace, we can end up very much like the U.S. auto industry -- out of touch with what clients really want, and unable to change course when required.

I sense the recessionary clouds are starting to lift, but you won't go wrong ever by listening, carefully.

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