I Don't Know!
Written by Jason Haines
“If I cannot brag of knowing something, then I brag of not knowing it; at any rate brag.”
-Ralph Waldo Emerson
Growing up we were taught to act like we knew everything, even if we didn’t know the answer. We were told, and I think this may have been more than just in my family, that it wasn’t respectable to act as if you didn’t know something. You had to always act as if you were in control, knew the answer to be part of the solution and not the problem. However, I always had a curious mind that wanted to discover the real answer and learn from others. I liked to act as if I didn’t know something, or how to do something, because it helped me learn how to do things and how others think. But all of that changed when I got into management and being a leader.
When I entered the world of leadership, I was told that you need to know everything. This was before I began studying and reading about leadership and what was needed to be a true and great leader. I believed early on you must “know it all”, even if you don’t. If you didn’t then you were a bad leader and shouldn’t be even considered part of the process. Many times, I saw people get ran over in a control and command environment; they may have been decent leaders but were deemed bad because they didn’t know all the ins and outs when they first started in their leadership roles. And co-workers who saw these situations this would begin to fear for their jobs if they didn’t know something. But what did this do to their psyche and morale? From what I know now, because I was there, it defeated these people and held them back. It also produced more people who felt they had to be the smartest person in the room. This is not a good thing.
Once the fear has set into someone or an organization people and things tend to fail or make major mistakes that are detrimental. Fear is bad for any environment because it creates a workplace that causes stress and makes employees fearful to try new things. It creates an environment of the status quo where nothing will ever change except for the people performing the jobs. Lean is the opposite of status quo, where Lean allows people to learn from their mistakes and learn what can be done without having all the answers. When one must be the smartest person in the room, regardless of whether they are or not, it creates an environment where we lose the trust of our people. Then we tend to become guarded in all that we do because we don’t want people to find out that we don’t always have the immediate solution.
So why don’t we say we are unsure in the first place? Is it pride? Is it fear? What is it?
My fear of not knowing the answer came from inexperience and not knowing what to do in a situation. I would not let anyone know that I struggled to find the solution and avoided asking for help and guidance. I should have asked for a mentor to help guide what I should do in certain situations. I, myself, thought if I didn’t know I would be let go and replaced by someone who did know. And my foolish pride was never going to let that happen. Foolish pride happens to a lot of us for fear that we will be replaced by someone who knows more or by someone more qualified.
I have had a mindset change over the last few years because I want to go back and be that inquisitive person that doesn’t always have the answers and is constantly learning. I want to be able to serve people rather than being a person looking to only save my job. How did I come to this? Well, because I just don’t know everything, I realized and accepted this. There is really no point in having to know everything and learning other people’s point of view provides you with a stronger knowledge that you didn’t have before. It builds teamwork and confidence in all who are involved in the process of building an organization. Listening and learning helps us all know what is going on throughout our business and organization.
When we learn to say I need help with the solution, or act as if we are unsure, we allow others to have the opportunity to learn and grow. This in the end allows our business and organization to grow because we are teaching others to lead. Being the coach or teacher in any situation is a great way to grow our business because it allows others to be challenged to think about things that they normally would not. Normally, these people would just sit back and allow the people who believe they know everything, though they probably don’t, make all the decisions.
So, let’s learn to say, “I need help with the solution,” more to learn from our mistakes and from others.
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