Business leaders who have managed to achieve success can find confidence in their history. They’ve overcome obstacles, outwitted and outlasted the competition, closed big deals and survived economic catastrophes. Over their careers, they’ve developed an approach that pays off for them. They trust their vision, their gut, a close circle of trusted advisers. When that’s the case, the tendency is to stick with what’s working — if it ain’t broke, so to speak …
There is, however, something these business leaders should be on the lookout for: blind spots. The market is rapidly changing. Consumers and customers have new and unique demands. And we’ve encountered never-before-seen issues in the market in recent years, the fallout from which is still disrupting businesses across the country. Navigating these challenges can require fresh perspectives.
However, some business leaders tend to rely on the same small group of people — peers or advisers — that have guided them through many difficult decisions. While it’s great to have people who can be trusted sources of information when a tough situation arises, that same circle can become a bubble.
During the Cleveland Smart Business Conference a couple years back, Rod Howell, then the CEO of Libra Industries, said that while the single best thing any business owner can do is put together a formal board of advisers, like anything else, it’s really about the quality of the people you choose to surround yourself with.
“If you’re going to put together a ‘country club’ board of advisers — just nice guys that you like to hang out with — that’s exactly what you’re going to get in return,” Howell said at the event. “You’re going to have a little bit of fun, but you’re not going to get a whole lot of value.”
Something to consider as many of us work through our plans for the coming year is to bring more voices into the conversation. Find people who don’t share your perspective, who can challenge your beliefs. Try to not just see their perspective, but understand where they’re coming from — what’s shaped their point of view, how they’re reaching their assumptions.
Also, be teachable. That confidence that you’ve gained from a string of past successes can breed an ego. When that’s the case, there can be a tendency to believe that you know it all — you’ve seen and experienced enough that you can overcome anything. That mindset can leave your company vulnerable to overlooked, or ignored, issues.
Add new voices to your circle and be open-minded to their suggestions. While your past wins may give you confidence, your future success depends on a perspective that’s broad enough to avoid blind spots. ●
Fred Koury is President and CEO of Smart Business Network Inc.