Thursday, December 4, 2008

Can You Work with a Variety of People?

This may sound like an odd question to which you would automatically answer "yes," but I will tell you that for many people that would be a lie. Realizing this too late can be catastrophic in small business. For example, if you've been cooped up in Corporate America with the MBA crowd your whole career, you might be wildly out of your element with the machine operator out on work release. (Link graciously provided for those of you that just said "What is 'work release?'")

Personally, I have enjoyed the jobs I have had where I have interfaced with both the boiler room and board room. I love the variety. Maybe it's the engineer in me that still gets a charge out of talking to the line operator. I have also seen the extent to which others can struggle when thrust into a situation with one or more of the groups across this spectrum. And if you don't know how to interact with a certain group, your biggest mistake will be to try and fake it.

Most entrepreneurs will run the gamut from bankers to adminstrators to salespeople to maintenance to purchasing to operators to lawyers. And that's probably all in the same week! There are a couple of risks of which you should be aware. For one, many people will consciously or subconsciously avoid the groups with which they are least comfortable. Danger! Another risk is that you can get taken advantage of when you are visibly out of your comfort zone.

Therefore, it is not a topic to be overlooked when considering small business opportunities. You can either steer yourself towards opportunities more in your comfort zone or be aware of the challenge and mitigate it with your teammates and/or a focused effort on your part. This can be one area where a personal coach or other reliable resource can help expand your comfort zone and your skills.

Both internally and externally, your interpersonal skills will be of heightened importance in small business. Much gets done on trust and relationships in this space. And the inverse is true too. You can't hang up a banner proclaiming "People are our Greatest Asset" if people do not see it in your actions. In small business, actions speak much more loudly than motivational posters! (For those of you still in Corporate America, see for some amusing alternatives.) So much is of heightened importance in small business, and your ability to connect with people is not one to be taken for granted.

REQUEST: Last week, a friend of mine emailed with some suggestions for post topics. Please email or share those in the Comments. I'd love to hear it. My goal is to sustain two posts per week, so variety helps.

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