Is your self-reliance dooming you?

A pal has been a supervisor at our local hardware store for 8 years. He recently shared a story about Eric, the new general manager — someone who’d never worked in a hardware store and was hired about 6 months ago.

Eric is a nice guy, but he doesn’t see how he’s causing himself to fail. It appears that Eric has a lot of confidence since he never asks anyone else for input. The result is a messy store, frustrated staff and irritated customers. His numbers are suffering as a result.

For example, the store gets sale signs and merchandise from the home office far in advance of the sale. But Eric doesn’t assign people to put up the signs and put out the merchandise until the last day of the sale. Customers come in looking for the sale items and either leave when they can’t find it or have to ask a staff member. The latter then has to go in the back and search through the boxes to find what is needed.

Prior to Eric’s managership, Harry, the former manager would make sure the sale items and signs were in a place in the back designated for upcoming sales. The night before the sale was launched, Harry would assign a few people to post the signs and put the items in a prominent spot in the appropriate sections. Customers and staff could then easily find what the ad promoted.

Eric also doesn’t seem to mind having the store in disarray, as he pulls people off assignments in one section to start another section before the first one is finished. On a recent visit to the store in early November, I noticed a staff member working on the Christmas decoration section, with open boxes in the aisles as she put the light strings on the shelves. She then disappeared, leaving the boxes blocking the aisle. On the way to my car, I noticed her now outside working on another area. When I mentioned this to my pal, he said this is common. Eric pulls people off one job to start another, even though the other job isn’t as time-critical as the first.

Why does Eric do this? We don’t know. We’re guessing he really doesn’t understand effective work flow of the store, so assigns people tasks as he thinks of them. He doesn’t think ahead and prioritize, but just reacts as jobs occur to him.

My pal and others try to make suggestions for smoother work flow, but Eric doesn’t implement them. We think he may be embarrassed that he doesn’t know more, and taking someone else’s suggestion would show his lack of experience. Or maybe he just thinks his way is the right way. But his store’s sales figures are off. But maybe he blames it on others.

Eric’s biggest problem — which I’ve seen a lot — is over reliance on himself. If he were just to ask others for their input, he’d learn much better ways to approach the job flow. He doesn’t have to take all the suggestions, but these people have been doing their jobs well for many more years than he’s been around.

So the question to ask yourself: do I seek out input from those who have more experience? Do I actively ask them, then listen to what they say without arguing? Then do I implement based on their suggestions?

By not harnessing the wisdom and experience of those around you, you are not showing you are self-reliant. You’re showing you’re self-destructive.

We think Eric won’t be around much longer. Will you be?