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When to say ‘tell me more about this’

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in Leaders & Managers,Leadership Skills

About 10 years ago, Jim McCann sent a memo to his technology staff. He wrote about corporate news and some online strategies for the business he founded, 1-800-Flowers.com.

Minutes after emailing his memo, he noticed that one of the recipients had already replied. Opening the email, McCann was surprised to see that a newly hired tech employee had sent the memo back to the CEO with reams of corrections.

“He had torn my memo to pieces,” McCann recalls.

The employee didn’t just mark up the memo with corrections. He also provided references that McCann might find helpful to gather more information about e-commerce and business opportunities.

Luckily, McCann has a thick skin. Rather than chastise the newcomer for his brashness, McCann marched straight to the staffer’s cubicle.

“How dare you?” he thundered as he entered the employee’s office.

Initially scared, the employee calmed down when McCann smiled and assured him he was kidding. Then the CEO sat down and said, “Tell me more about this.”

This led to a stimulating conversation in which McCann picked the techie’s brain. They discussed then-new Face­­book as a potentially rich business tool.

McCann also asked about social networking and how it might affect the company’s sales. He wanted to get a better sense of how the firm’s online reputation could attract more customers.

Over time, McCann involved the employee in many initiatives to boost the company’s online presence. Thanks to his willingness to seek out the staffer—rather than take offense—McCann would up a more enlightened leader.

— Adapted from Talk Is (Not!) Cheap, Jim McCann, New Harvest.

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