“Most discussions of decision making assume that only senior executives make decisions. This is a dangerous mistake.” ~Peter Drucker

Never assume you hold all of the cards or have better information than a person with a counterargument or the one bringing a new idea to you, especially when that “opponent” is an employee or peer. As the old saying goes “when you assume, you make an ass out of you and me”. Except that when you are the boss, and you assume you have better/more information than another person within the company, you generally just make an ass out of yourself.

There’s no denying the fact that as you climb the career ladder, you get access to more information and better information than you had before. But nobody has ALL of the information, and oftentimes information can be looked at from a different viewpoint which sheds different light on the issue. Take for example inventory:

Finance looks at inventory as something to be minimized. By minimizing, they increase the number of inventory turns, have less shrinkage, and need less financing to run operations. The Sales team, however, looks at inventory as something that should be optimized or maximized because they know they can’t sell what they don’t have.

In the above case, both are right, but the truth lies somewhere in between. It pays to answer a few questions before thinking you hold all of the information cards:

Where are they getting their information? – In the case of employees, they often have insight into the customer experience that you simply don’t since they are on the front line. In the case of peers, they may be upstream or downstream from you in the product/service line which gives them new perspective. Competitors may have exclusive market research. It is essential that you determine where their background information came from.

What do they see that I don’t? – They didn’t come up with this out of thin air, so what gives? It is very easy for a manager to get caught in a thinking rut. “We’ve always done it this way”, “That’s always our number one seller”, or “We’ve tried fixing that dozens of times in the past, but failed”. By determining what perspective they bring

Is there motivation different than mine? Better than mine? – This gets at the above example. In the case of inventory, the “perfect world” is Just-in-Time inventory, but most companies carry a little excess to be able to accommodate spikes in demand, which results in a little or a lot of extra carrying cost. You need to know what the best goal is for the question at hand, that should be your motivation: As a general rule, ask what is best for the customer AND the company. The person whose idea/argument best satisfies whatever goal is desired will be the winner.

Try these out the next time you run across a person you respect who holds a different view than you. Don’t assume you know best, consider the other side and where they are coming from and you’ll reduce your chance of mistakes.