I’m an entrepreneur, and in my business I work with entrepreneurs every day – both as clients and as members of my team. When you’re coaching a CEO or running a planning session with a company looking to improve its numbers and its culture, it’s best to have a person leading the session who understands the entrepreneurial mindset. And, who better to do this than another entrepreneur, right? Well, yes and no.
Entrepreneurs have many great qualities. They have a particular talent to see “gaps” – areas where something is needed in the marketplace but not being provided (at least not as well as they think it could be) – and to fill that gap with a product or service. In the same way, they can see those gaps in other businesses and help business leaders improve and be more successful. For that reason – and others – I’ve actively sought out entrepreneurs to contract with as coaches at Petra Coach. However, there can be a dark side to those instincts that can make any entrepreneur “unemployable,” because who would want to employ someone who – no matter the situation – thinks they can do it better, say it better and get better results than another person doing the same thing?
It can be tough to be a leader with a team member that always thinks they are right. In the same way, it can be difficult to be a team member who constantly feels frustrated, yet won’t consider the ideas of those around them. Happily, there’s a middle ground, but it requires intention and skill to master the entrepreneurial spirit and “use those powers for good.” Here are four ways that entrepreneurs can lead and follow more effectively and be the most employable person (or best employer) in the room:
Your ego can be your enemy. Don’t let that happen. While you may be the final decision maker, you’re not the only person in the room, and all businesses require a wide variety of ideas and points of view to keep things fresh. The opinions of others have value, and you put yourself and your business at great peril if you let your ego get in the way of accepting other points of view and doing what’s best for your people and your business.
Part of putting your ego aside is listening to the people around you. They just might have good ideas – even great ones. But, you’ll never find out if you don’t ask for their input and then open your ears. There are two kinds of listening: One is “listening to talk,” meaning you’re waiting for the other person to finish so you can give your own opinion. The other is “listening to listen,” which is being actively engaged so you can fully understand what another person is saying. Be sure you’re always doing the latter and keep a student mindset when interacting with your team.
What’s the point of hiring someone at the top of their game and then insisting that they do things your way? If you’re surrounded by top talent (and if you’ve hired right, you should be), then take advantage of what they bring to the table. Even if you’re surrounded by other entrepreneurs who think they can do things better than you, don’t stifle their entrepreneurial spirit, but encourage their independent thought while requiring them to be a team player.
It’s arguable that entrepreneurs by definition can’t work for anybody else, but it’s important to remember that you can’t be a success without other people – no matter how much you think you can. You’re going to have to at least work with people, whether it’s your investors, clients or employees.
There are a lot of ways entrepreneurs make their lives more difficult than they need to be, and I’ve talked before about ways to make entrepreneurship a little easier. Take these four steps, and you’ll be well on your way to becoming the best – and most “employable” – entrepreneur you can be. Take a step back. Keep the spirit and drive that helps you do what you do best while inviting outside ideas and making them a part of your business. You’ll benefit personally and professionally – in your current business…or whatever comes next.
This article originally appeared in HuffPost.