Let’s Admit It: We Don’t Know Anything

If we’ve been in an organization for a while, chances are we’re well versed in its ways and thinking. We know the people, we know how the company got to this point in its life, why the organization does this or that.

We know stuff. And we feel confident.

But when we’re at the top of an organization and we’re leading a Change, it’s smart to stop thinking we know so much. In fact, it’s smart to reassess, humble ourselves and decide we don’t know anything, to ask questions like we don’t know anything.

Here are seven good reasons to do this:

  • The fact is, we don’t know everything, and (importantly) we don’t know what we don’t know. Even if we’ve been here for 30 years and held 10 jobs, we can’t possibly know it all.

 

  • Thinking we know it all handicaps the process. Subordinates don’t want to tell us we’re wrong about how things really work. So we end up leading blind, and we don’t even know it.

 

  • A “not knowing” orientation helps us kill our biases, which are based on what we know, not on what we don’t know. We need to eliminate these blind spots.

 

  • Not knowing forces us to listen. When we enter a process with something closer to a blank slate, when we ask questions with a blank slate (“I’m so removed from what goes on everyday here. Can you help me as we think about this Change?”…that sort of thing), we open up the process—and ourselves—to new possibilities.

 

  • The new ideas we gain give us a much better solution set for the Change. It’s not the solution set we would have come up with as “know it alls.” No, it’s much more realistic and workable.

 

  • The “aha” we get from these new ideas makes us curious about our organization again. We yearn to learn more, to go deeper, to ask better questions. Our new curiosity refreshes our excitement for our own organization. This is good for our mental health.

 

  • Finally, if we listen from an “I don’t know” standpoint, our people are more likely to contribute and feel part of the process, not removed from it. As we’ll discuss in a future newsletter, this can generate remarkable outcomes.

So let’s admit it: We know nothing. Doing so takes humility, but it serves us well.

Let me know what you think…I look forward to being in touch.

Al Comeaux

Primed for Change Community

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