Don’t shoot the messenger

An apology to Professor Nutt – you have been drawn into an age old problem and Enterprise Britain is seizing your case wholeheartedly. There are two blogs this week focussed on your recent redundancy. Not because of the drugs issue, though I can feel another blog coming up, but because of the lessons we can learn from this decision.

Professor Nutt I assume is very knowledgeable when it comes to drugs. As he is a Professor of some distinction, lets not dwell on how this knowledge was obtained, and has spent many years studying drugs and their effects. He was in fact so knowledgeable that he has been an advisor to our government for some time and he was recruited to tell his employer about the effects of various drugs. His opinion differed from what the government wanted reality to be and that is something that happens to us all in Enterprise Britain.

Someone in your organisation and it may even be a non-executive brings you news you do not want to hear. That brilliant product of yours which you developed, marketed and distributed is a complete flop. Customers want refunds, etc, etc (Nabisco managed to produce a smokeless cigarette which turned out to taste like s**t and the company was betting its future on it). What do you do? Shoot the messenger or face reality?

We bring people into our organisation and they have opinions. Now we can do one of two things – we can listen to these opinions or we can ignore them. We can even go a step further and we can tell people that when we want to know their opinion, we will tell them what it is! Of course our ultimate weapon is to pull an Alan Johnson and sack the dreaded opinion.

What do we gain by only following our own opinion? Nothing! We will not grow, we will not develop, and we will probably not be successful. We will have a bunch of nodding plods around us who do what they are told, collect whatever we pay them and go home.

The alternative is to surround ourselves with strong people, who do have opinions and we can take the time to listen to them. We will learn from these people and if the situation demands we still do what we wanted in the first place we will have to justify the decision to ourselves in the first place. This will allow for stronger decision making and better judgements.

To develop and grow, get strong people and encourage everyone to speak up. I usually make the weak joke that I run my businesses like a ‘benevolent dictator’. In fact I listen to people, equally to staff and to directors. However, I reserve the right to make the final decision, but I never, ever get rid of an opposing opinion – it is always a learning experience. Obviously Alan Johnson does not need to learn anymore, as he and his government are heading for retirement soon anyway.

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