Some years ago now, I asked my friend his “secret” and our conversation has stuck in my memory ever since. His initial answer to my enquiry was that he was “just a good listener that pays attention when people smarter than me are talking”. But as I dug a bit deeper, I found out that he had actually developed three distinct habits that allowed him to tap into the “right answers” for almost any situation. Now, I purposefully practice these habits and try to develop them in the people that I am mentoring. They are equally useful in business and interpersonal situations.
Habit #1 – Understand your strengths
The foundation of having all the right answers, somewhat paradoxically, is to realise that you don’t have all the answers. People like my friend – the “answer people” - are actually more self-aware than most. They know their strengths and weaknesses well. They’re very knowledgeable in their particular area of expertise and they’re confident enough to admit when they don’t know something. And they’re most definitely not what others would describe as “know it all’s” in a derogatory sense.
Many people derive their sense of power from their perceived technical expertise and, as a result, they’re often terrified of appearing as though they don’t know something. “Answer people” are the exact opposite. Instead of staking their reputations on and measuring their self-worth by their perceived expertise, they judge their success on their ability to make an impact in critical situations. So how is it that these people almost always have the right answers even outside their areas of expertise? The other two habits help explain.
Habit #2 – Deliberately build relationships with other “answer people”
In business, it’s become a bit of a cliché to say that you should surround yourself with the smartest, most talented people you can find (or afford). In practice, most business owners and managers deliberately avoid doing so. This too is linked to the human tendency to link our sense of power to maintaining the illusion that we know it all. Expertise as a source of power is unreliable because there will always be someone out there that is more of an expert than you are.
“Answer people” actively seek out relationships with others who are genuine experts at things they themselves are not experts at. This is true for both their personal and business relationships – their friends and employees or co-workers. Over time, building a network of experts in different but complimentary disciplines gives the “answer people” access to insights and advice that allow
them to intelligently and successfully tackle most challenges. But there is one more critical habit that you’ll need to establish to become someone who almost always has the right answers.
Habit #3 – Never be afraid to ask for advice
Contrary to what many in the business world seem to think, asking for help is not an admission of failure! In fact, developing the habit of seeking advice is a key to succeeding in any endeavour.
Mark Bouris, the founder of Wizard Home Loans and Yellow Brick Road Financial Planning summed it up very well when he said, “Even the strongest, smartest and most accomplished business people have had someone to turn to for advice. There’s been someone who has done this for me throughout my career, and it’s the most valuable asset I have ever had.”
I encourage all of my clients to develop these three habits because I know from experience how effective they are when it comes to achieving my most important priorities in life and business. And I am confident that if you take action to honestly reflect on your
strengths, surround yourself with confident experts and just start asking for advice on a regular basis, you’ll experience the same success that I have. And you just might become one of those people that almost always have the right answers.
“Even the strongest, smartest and most accomplished business people have had someone to turn to for advice. There’s been someone who has done this for me throughout my career, and it’s the most valuable asset I have ever had.”