Sunday, April 22, 2018

Leadership and The Power of Not Knowing

By Sharon Eden

Leaders are generally expected to know all the answers. Yet, I’m always delighted when one of my clients answers a question with, “I don’t know”. Because that means they’re onto something big!

If you’re puzzled and thinking I’ve really lost it this time, I understand perfectly. My statement seems to fly in the face of all reason as taught by traditional education systems. To ‘not know’ equals failure. ‘To know’ equals success.

Remember all those hands flying up in class except yours? Remember how you felt when you were unable to answer a question? And did you ever put your hand up, praying you wouldn’t be asked, from your desire to look OK in other peoples’ eyes?

Yet… ‘don’t know’ is on the very edge of discovery.

It’s a potentially exciting moment when something new to you can be learned or discovered.

And it’s a very, very fertile moment for Inner Leadership.

From childhood the anxiety of being asked a question to which I was expected to know the right answer short-circuited my brain. I would go blank… which made matters even worse because my ‘I don’t know’ then was most definitely unacceptable = more anxiety = the more likely I was to go blank!

Until a wise old trainer told me in my 30s, “Blank is very high space. People meditate their arses off to get there!” From then on I learned to use that ‘blank’ as a connecting point with my Inner Leader and the vast oceans of my unconscious knowledge.

So as a leader start to love your ‘don’t knows’. Yes… I do mean love! Because when you accept them and even welcome them in you’ll be more knowledgeable and wiser than you could ever imagine. Here’s how…

#1 When asked a question or posed a problem, don’t bullshit! Cultivate the ability to state simply and easily, “I don’t know.”

#2 If it’s important you do provide an answer, you might like to tag on, “I’ll come back to you on that one” or “I need to consider that before answering”.

#3 You could work on the question as you would normally and logically, e.g., research some details, brain storm with your team, check it out with a colleague. You might then get a logical answer but, hey, that’s not all there is!

#4 Please note, #3 is not absolutely necessary. It can help but not always!

#5 Take a few deep breaths to relax your whole brain processing system, body feelings mind and oomph, and pose the question to yourself.

#6 Take whatever ‘answer’ you get whether it’s in words or pictures, sounds, sensations, symbols, metaphors. If it doesn’t make sense to you… excellent! It will over the minutes, hours and perhaps days to come.

#7 Be prepared to be surprised and delighted by the quality information you’ll then receive.

This isn’t new to you, even if you think it is. It’s the same process as all those times when an ‘answer’ occurred to you seemingly ‘out of the blue’. So…

There’s no shame in not knowing. There’s only adventure!

If you took that on board and your ‘I don’t know’ as an invitation to consult your Inner Leadership, who knows what innovative and creative initiatives you might deliver. At work and way beyond!

So… what is it you think you don’t know?

And what leadership treasures might it be patiently, or not so patiently, waiting to deliver?

Sharon Eden helps leaders and people dispirited at work find their purpose, passion and power. She’s a renowned psychotherapist, executive coach, trainer, speaker and catalyst passionate in helping people like you develop their own Inner Leadership. Sign up now for her free Inner Leadership Ezine and get her special paper ‘How To Find Your Purpose At Work Right Now!’

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3 Responses to “Leadership and The Power of Not Knowing”
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