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Share knowledge when it counts

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Senior executives have many talents. But they can’t read minds.

Consider what happens when you assume your boss knows what you know. You defer to your manager even though it’s unclear whether he or she has enough information to make a sound decision. Your reluctance to question an ill-informed directive can result in serious problems.

A wiser strategy is to speak out with tact. It’s not boasting to cite a fact or share relevant experience that your boss can use to make a sensible decision.

The same goes when you deal with experts. Don’t let their impressive credentials intimidate you.

When Harvey Rowen ran Merrill Lynch Bank & Trust Co., he recalls a visit from the state bank examiner. The powerful regulator told Rowen, “I need to count the cash in your vault.”

“There were two problems with that,” Rowen says with a smile. “First, we didn’t have a vault. Second, we didn’t have cash.”

The firm managed money for wealthy clients. It didn’t take deposits or make loans.

Rowen politely notified the bank examiner, who returned later with the necessary paperwork for regulating a trust company as opposed to a commercial bank. Rowen calls the mix-up “a reminder that you can’t assume a regulator—or any expert—knows your business better than you do.”

Follow Rowen’s lead and use diplomacy when sharing what you know. Skip the arrogance and provide timely information without mocking others’ lack of understanding.

 

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