Wednesday, December 15, 2021

It's More than OK to say "I don't know."

Source: Lean Enterprise Institute

Mandy Gilbert, Founder and CEO of Creative Niche, wrote an interesting article several years ago for Inc.  The title of the essay was, "Why Saying 'I Don't Know' Is a Sign of a Strong Leader."  The article reminded me of a conversation I had with a UK-based CEO in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.  She recounted a story of her first meeting with her top management team after shutting down the corporate offices in March 2020.  This CEO started the meeting by telling the team, "I just want to remind you all that I haven't been through a global pandemic either.  So, let's figure this out together."  Here's what Gilbert wrote in her article that reminded me very much of this story of the CEO confronting the pandemic with her senior team: 

When faced with an obstacle, your gut reaction may be to exert your expertise and quickly provide a solution. However, a much more powerful alternative would be consulting your team out of the gate.ate. "Let's figure this out together" will only have positive outcome. Not only will this show you value their opinion, but it will also help the team come to the right solution. Your colleagues could have been through something similar in a previous role, and consequently offer valuable insight on what the next steps should be.

Some of the biggest wins can come out of not knowing. Admitting you don't know what to do evens the playing field. When everyone feels equal, the problem solving process becomes collaborative rather than authoritative.

Success achieved through a group effort is much more powerful than when achieved through a single person. Imagine the camaraderie and culture that will start to cultivate when the team solves a problem or reaches a target together? As a leader, collaboration should always be your number one priority -- not your self-pride.

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