I was recently speaking with the founder of a company of which I am an investor. He asked for my thoughts on a decision and I offered my opinion, only to end with a caveat which I repeat frequently.
I encouraged him to continue to leverage the intellectual capital around him whenever possible, but to remember, “No one knows your business better than you do. Your choices still need to be yours.”
We all know the all saying, “Consider the source”, and countless biz titans like Ray Dalio write about attaching a “credibility score” to advice. They recommend further validating the opinions of advisors to ensure they have actual experience in the topic they’re speaking to. It seems so obvious, but most of us don’t do that enough.
All too often, we accept the opinions of people who genuinely want to help us but are shooting enthusiastically from the hip instead of appropriately qualifying their opinion. We all need to be more skeptical at times to make sure we’re listening to direct experience versus just someone else’s lighter weight exposure or feeling on a topic.
This applies to all grey hair, including investors, board members, advisors and fellow executives – even when they come with impressive resumes and reputations.
I know too many founders who have deferred to board members’ recommendations, assuming they knew better, only to follow advice or enact strategies that led to significant negative outcomes.
Even when people are extremely credible on a topic, founders also have to remember that “one size fits none” and copy ‘n’ paste usually doesn’t work across companies, save for some fundamentals.
Regardless of your level of experience operating, no outsider will ever be able to see the full canvas needed for a complete thought process. Trust your gut. Pump the brakes when you need to. Don’t worry about pleasing people. Get more data points within a responsible time frame, if you need them.
Use grey haired conversations for additional decision-making frameworks. Hope to unlock some additional pattern recognition. Utilize help to ensure you see the full cost / benefit equation from other sophisticated perspectives.
But remember you’re the one who’s ultimately accountable. Again, your choices still need to be yours.
Not fully qualifying the source, pushing back or trusting your instincts can easily lead to an ill-timed CTRL+V.
That can kill your company. I’ve seen it happen more than once.