The other day, I was with two other business women and we were discussing lessons that we have tried to share with our kids and other young people in business. Three of those key lessons are:
- You don’t have to react to everything. Smart people know how to pick their arguments and conserve their energy for the more important issues in life. Sometimes the best strategy is to let something just happen without your involvement or energy. Let it pass. Don’t get involved with the drama. You may think about it and see if you have something to offer, but you don’t have to have an opinion on each issue. Find the things that really interest you and react, volunteer, lead, and manage.
- You don’t have to answer every question or know everything on the spot. A young dietitian called me to ask what she should do. A physician stopped her in the hospital hall to ask if she would privately see his patients at his office several evenings per week and on Saturday mornings. He offered her $25 per hour and she said “yes” on the spot. She found out that he planned to bill $120 for her services and she didn’t know what to do.
First, it would have been better for her to say, “Let me work the numbers and get back to you on what I would charge for my time and overhead.” Now, she can say, “I am really excited about the possibility of working at your office since my expertise is ______________ and I have 12 years of clinical experience. We seem to work well together and have the same commitment to our patients. I have looked at the costs for my continuing education, materials, and transportation in working as a subcontractor and I can’t do it for what you offered. Can we reopen the discussion on what I’m paid? Nutrition consultants in this area normally charge their accounts $60-80 per hour. Can we start there?” (Be willing to walk away. The rate is way too low and it may be very hard to change once you accept it.)
If the issue is whether you have an answer to a question, when you truly don’t know or you only know a ballpark guess, say, “That’s a great question! Let me look it up and get back to you this afternoon.” (No one would expect you to know everything unless you were charged with bringing that information to the discussion.)
- Many times being “good” is more timely and productive than not acting until everything is “perfect.” Being perfect is not necessary – but you must work smart. Gather the best information you can and based upon your soundest reasoning and that of your staff/consultants, go for it – using the strategy: ready, aim, fire, re-aim, get feedback, and continually adjust as needed, etc. You may never have all the information you need to make every decision perfectly, but you can adjust along the way to eventually reach your targets. Not wanting to act unless everything is “perfect” can cause inaction and fear that can paralyze a person. Taking smart, calculated risks usually jumps a person ahead of the crowd.
These may seem like small skills, but some people work all their lives and never grasp them.