My career has involved working with business professionals and franchisees, teaching them how to coach and guide entrepreneurs, salespeople, and other professionals to generate referrals for themselves and others. I realized early on that entrepreneurs often resist being told what to do and it takes a real skill set to move them in a direction that involves hard work and the effort necessary to help them achieve the results they want.
I found that one of the biggest challenges in this process was not with the actual entrepreneur or salesperson; it was with the individual I was coaching to help them guide the entrepreneur or salesperson. These people had gone through many hours of training, had a fair amount of field experience, and had support manuals loaded with documentation to assist in the process. They were the true experts.
However, I discovered that sometimes expertise can actually be a problem. Just because your expertise provides you with the knowledge to recognize the solution to a particular challenge, it doesn’t mean other people are going to automatically believe that you know the solution or that they want you to even tell them the solution.
Being right doesn’t matter if people aren’t willing to listen to you.
Being an Expert
So, let’s say you’re an expert. You know you’re an expert and you know you can help someone else. You also know that this “someone else” runs their own business or is an independent sales rep who chose their specific career path for good reason . . . they like the freedom of being independent.
How do you help move those people in the right direction for greater success?
Years ago, there was a person who worked for my company who visited one of our chapters and was appalled by how badly things were being run by the members of the group. She let them know in no uncertain terms what they were doing wrong and how they needed to turn it around. Her assessment of the situation and the solutions she proposed were spot on, however, her presentation about them was all wrong. She was so blunt with the group’s members that she received an extremely negative reaction and ended up leaving the chapter in an even bigger mess than it was when she first walked in.
When I met with her to talk about how she might have done things differently, she was furious with me for not supporting her because she was right, and the members of the group were wrong. I didn’t argue that she was right–she was. The problem I had was how she handled the situation–in that area, she was completely wrong. I tried to explain this to her, emphasizing the reminder: don’t make things worse than you found them when you were trying to fix them in the first place.
She never really grasped the concept that people may not welcome her advice with enthusiasm and agree with her stance on an issue just because she was right. She didn’t work for me for much longer. Eventually, we did get an expert to work with that group who listened to them and their issues. He built relationships with the group members, and then coached them into achieving the greatness they had within them. It is important to note that this process took time and patience. Listening to them first built the necessary trust and understanding for them to listen to him later.
Two Things to Remember
- People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.
If you want people to listen to you when you are coaching them or re-directing them, they must know that you care about them. They need to believe that you sincerely want them to succeed. If they don’t know this – they will never listen to your advice.
This is a saying on a paper weight that my mother gave to me when I was 14-years old while I was running an uphill battle for a high school student council race. When she gave it to me, she explained that I had to learn how to work “with” people, not “through” people. She said that it is all about collaboration, not manipulation, and she told me that even if I did know the answer to a problem, it did no good if nobody else believed me.
That advice helped me win the student council election and it has helped me numerous times throughout my life. Sometimes I don’t use it as well as I can – however, when I do use it, things almost always go more smoothly. By the way, that paper weight still sits on my desk to this day.
Yes, expertise is important; systems and processes are important. Equally as important is our understanding that we have to apply them in a way that shows we care.
Successful leaders coach and guide people on the ways to get them where they need to go. Those leaders help others improve their performance by supporting them through training and mentoring. They know that being right doesn’t matter at all if nobody is listening.