You Know Less Now Than Before
Updated: Jan 9, 2019
Isn't it interesting that when we are in our teenage years and even through our 20's and early 30's, we feel that we have all of the answers? That we have life figured out and that we can conquer anything. Yet, when we head into our 40's, 50's, and later that we realize we know less and less. Now, I'm not talking about health related loss of knowing/knowledge, but rather the reality of life and the uncertainty and complexity of the world in which we live.
I know that as I get older, I do feel smarter, in that my children don't think I'm as stupid as they once did. Yet, when it comes to the uncertainty of the future, and the change that occurs as we move through life, from the feeling of being invincible to that of maturity and realizing what we don't know, far exceeds what we do know.
So, why is it at this time of our life, we tend to be more resistant to learn from others? Is it because we are expected to have all of the answers? Or, is it because as leaders, we feel that we should know and that others are relying on us to have all of the answers?
I don't know about you, but I know I don't have all of the answers. Now, have I always thought that way? Absolutely not! I, like many of you, thought I knew it all. I moved up in my career because I was able to get things done and I had the answers, or so I thought. Yet, now I realize that not only do I not have all of the answers, but that the means in which I am successful is less about me and more about the people I use as advisors and resources, as well as the clients I engage, that help me get better answers, better solutions, and achieve greater success for the whole.
In fact, those around me that I coach, develop, and advise, are the real successes. It's through those trusting relationships of listening and responding that the true growth and knowledge are developed.
It is true that the more successful we become, the tendency to believe our own headlines causes us to lose what made us successful to begin with. When I started my career, I realized I didn't know many things about being an accountant, how to interact with clients, etc. I observed, asked questions, and practiced to improve my skills. As I moved up into leadership, I took on more, was expected to know more, and was looked to for answers. I was able to give answers, but wasn't always very confident in the answers that I was giving.
So, what would happen in your organization if you put yourself back in those first few years of your career? How you asked questions, listened, and responded based on the input you received. Do you think you would be a better leader? Do you think that your credibility and respect of your team would increase? I can guarantee that it would.
None of us like 'know it all's'. We all like to see the humanness of the people we work with and the leaders that we follow. Because that humanness allows us to grow and develop and fail along the way. We didn't become knowledgeable without help, and we won't continue to grow in our knowledge if we think we know it all. When we stop learning, we stop growing. When we stop growing, the success we've gained in our careers and in our lives can quickly go away.
So, what kind of leader do you want to be now and in the future? Have you arrived? Or, do you realize that there is so much more to learn.
Human beings, who are almost unique in having the ability to learn from the experience of others, are also remarkable for their apparent disinclination to do so.
- Douglas Adams
Jayne McQuillan, CPA, MBA, CEPA is a strategic management consultant, and the owner of Journey Consulting, LLC, in Green Bay