Ask the Experts at Work

The following excerpt from Larry Steinmetz’s book “Kansas Sense: Simple Business Wisdom from the Heartland,” illuminates practical and philosophical stories that easily resonate with leaders from all walks of life.

Growing up, occasionally one of us kids would have a particular question or issue that Mom and Dad may not have been able to solve immediately. This would usually pertain to a question in which the core knowledge of the subject was not one of Mom and Dad’s areas of interest. In our case it was camping, fishing, stereo equipment, golf clubs, etc.

In these circumstances it was quite common for Dad to say, “Well, let me ask the experts at work.” Dad worked with hundreds of people at TWA’s overhaul base in Kansas City. He could always network to find someone who was considered the resident expert regardless of the topic. And sure enough, in a day or two, Dad would find the appropriate “expert” at work, review the situation with that person and return home with the inside scoop. This process was very effective and worked every time.

Instead of trying to impress us by pretending to know the answer or to guess, my Dad would seek out the person who had the knowledge and experience to provide the right answer. He did not always know the right answer himself but he sure knew where and how to get it.

I try to remember Dad’s plan in my own work. I know it is tempting at times to provide what you think the answer is to almost any issue. After all, you do not want to look like you may not have all the answers, right? In these situations I have a rule I try to remember: “It is better to let some people think that you may not have a clue than to speak up and prove it to everyone.”

In fact, in most cases the best plan is to just announce that you need to find out, that you need to “ask the experts at work.” Even if you are the boss, don’t place an unrealistic expectation on yourself to be the “go to answer person” in all areas. Instead rely on the team that you built to deliver the correct answer.

The true wisdom in play here is having the confidence to acknowledge that it is not realistic for you to know it all. That getting the right answer is the only goal. That sometimes simply knowing where to go to get the right answer and going there and getting it exhibits the most intelligence of all.

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