One of the best things about getting older is that you realise that you don’t know very much. It’s such a relief.
It’s so hard to know everything; to have an opinion on everything.
My husband can recite poetry; which means that he is very clever. He also has this incredible memory for interesting facts and history. Me, not so much. My only party trick is that I am good at remembering people’s birthdays. I can also entertain my children for hours with my interpretation of the lyrics of hits from the 70s and 80s.
In the various workplaces that I have spent time in, I have found that many leaders often think that they need to know everything. That to be a competent leader you have to a handle on every aspect of the organisation or the business. These leaders often spend a huge amount of time checking up on everyone and what they are doing (and they can get accused of micromanaging or interfering too much). As a result, they often get bogged down dealing with the small stuff; they get ‘stuck in the weeds’. And it is exhausting.
But as the leader, you don’t know everything and you can’t.
The bigger the organisation and the faster it grows, the sooner you realise that you need to trust others to ‘know’ all the stuff because you literally cannot ‘know’ everything.
The role of the leader is to grow and develop the people in your team and your organisation so that they can do the work that needs to be done and to make the decisions that need to be made. You are there to support and educate your people, to help put out fires and oversee the big picture.
But from time to time problems will arise; whether that be a personnel issue, a financial blip or a worldwide pandemic. And when these issues arise the most important question to ask at that time is “what don’t I know?” This is not the time to make assumptions.
Assumptions are always based on what we think has happened in the past and that is why they are so dangerous; because things and behaviours that happened at an earlier time won’t necessarily happen again.
So get curious and don’t make assumptions. Recognise that people are complex, that the world is moving at a pace that is impossible to keep up with and that you cannot predict a person’s motivation to make decisions.
Ask yourself over and over again “What don’t I know?” and then you are more likely to make better decisions based on fact rather than assumptions.