Curious as to how your peers get their business advice and keep their personal saws sharpened? I ran an unscientific poll on LinkedIn asking that question. The results definitely painted the picture of the self-educated professional, getting business advice from articles, blogs, webinars and other self-initiated means.
LinkedIn Poll Results
The question was, How are you gaining perspective and advice as a business leader? Here are the results:
Clearly in the age of recessions, seeking information on your own via the Internet is the fastest, and cheapest, means of finding advice and information as indicated in the 61% sampling on this poll. In a distant 2nd place with about 1/3 as many replies is Mastermind Groups followed by Coaching/Mentoring at 11%. What I found very interesting was that using your internal team of managers got such a low response. However, the response was worded “Internal managers only” and the only part of that may have swayed this data.
Poll Data Limitations
Using LinkedIn polls has 2 key drawbacks:
- Only LinkedIn Users can take the poll. This automatically means that users are limited for the most part to white-collar professionals. In my case, that is my target customer base so this is not a drawback on audience segment, just numbers of people that reply.
- LinkedIn forces choice without allowing for multiple options. Respondents clearly need to choose the number one thing that answers the question.
What LinkedIn does do that is cool is won’t allow multiple answers from the same person as some services do, effectively allowing someone, usually the survey taker, to fix the results. Not here.
There is also the limit of statistical significance on this poll. LinkedIn Polls run for 30 days when posted, and due to other irons in the fire I didn’t push this poll, so the limited number of respondents increases the margin for error due to statistical significance. I was looking for trends, however, and the results clearly show one.
Alternate SurveyMonkey Poll
In parallel, I ran a survey on my website that had no such limitations. Respondents could choose the best responses they wanted and could choose multiple answers.
Notice that the numbers do increase a little for all low responses like the In house option, yet the leaders and trends are in the same positions as the LinkedIn poll. The extra little reply in the SurveyMonkey poll about not getting any new information on advice shows that the respondents are forward thinking enough to seek out better ways and humble enough to understand that they don’t have all the answers.
What Does This Mean to You as a Business Leader?
Well, it’s a data point really. Surprising? Perhaps not. Clearly the easiest and most efficient way to educate yourself to new techniques and methods is going online, where in a matter of minutes you can tap a blog or online course to teach you stuff. The challenge that I see with this data, where professionals are getting advice and perspective by and large from articles, blogs and webinars, is one of objectivity and trust. Much of the information found online, at least the free stuff, is designed to persuade you to a given solution to a problem. It’s a one-size-fits-all solution and is usually not provided with the best interest of the reader or viewer as first priority. Of course most information providers want to see you succeed, but that can be secondary to purchasing their stuff. The obvious risk here is lack of investment in your outcomes, and while this can work great for things like marketing tactics, on heavier decisions that business owners face (selling the business, legal trouble, etc.), they must be diligent and measured when following the guru of whatever it is they are seeking advice on.
Getting Trusted Advice
What I mean by trusted advice is counsel from somebody who is invested in you personally, where friendships or business relationships have been formed, and that person is either at a peer-to-peer level or a higher level on the corporate ladder than you. Perhaps that is why the numbers in these polls show business leaders are consulting their staffs as a first choice.
Usually trusted advice comes from family and friends, but you need to determine the business acumen of those people in your life. Many well-meaning family members have absolutely and unwittingly derailed the hopes and dreams of small business owners.
Another way to gain access to sage counsel with trust is a mentor or Mastermind Group participation. These numbers on the surveys above showed a subset of people using these tools to grow their businesses and gain perspective. Barriers to either of these means are usually money or, in most entrepreneur and small business owner cases, time commitment. Professionals starting their own Mastermind Groups, for instance, can do so on a shoestring budget, but the finding of other like-minded members who can contribute, the coordination of resources, and the facilitation of a group can be grueling. Many existing Mastermind organizations exist like my offering at virtual-mastermind.com, Vistage International, and plenty more, and the charges range all over the map. Your money goes to the facilitation of the group, getting into a great group of other business leaders, and the 2-way interaction that personalizes results for the membership after that trust bond is developed. Investment should never go to product purchases without these other elements.
Professional Education and Leadership Advice Today
The most important thing any business professional needs to take away is to keep getting more information, tools, advice and new ideas. Information is never stagnant, and neither is what works in the world. Principles are timeless, while tactics change over time as does the success from using them. Know what kind of information you seek, stay current, and stay diligent. You can only act on so much information, so edit wisely.
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