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Day 4. September 4, 2021.
Let’s continue where we left off yesterday with our next ingredient or component, knowledge.
Some folks think this should go first, but I’ve intentionally placed humility and curiosity in front of it because without those knowledge acquisition is impossible. Just log onto any social media platform and find a post where there’s disagreement. Moments ago I saw a post about some marketing session conducted in 2019. The post included a link to the YouTube video. One of the first commenters lambasted the session with statement after statement for which he provided no evidence. He was critical about who might have been in the audience and wrote an entire paragraph filled with harsh judgment. I clicked the link that took me to the YouTube video where the description gave answers to his criticisms, none of which turned out to be accurate. I spent about 10 seconds scanning that. I never clicked play on the video. Ten seconds. That’s all it took to find out the commenter was completely wrong. He likely spent minutes crafting his criticism. So it goes.
Knee-jerk reactions. Fast assumptions. Never mind the facts. Don’t bother us with those! 😉
That’s why humility and curiosity precede knowledge. This commenter already knew everything about the situation. Arrogance. Pride. Hubris. He exhibited no curiosity because his mind was made up – and closed. Let’s not follow his lead.
Yesterday the Washington Post published an article about how misinformation on Facebook gets much greater attention than actual news. A cursory look at social media shows us how misinformation gets easily spread. Hitting the share button or the retweet button are easy. We flash through information, spending seconds – or fractions of seconds, and then we move on. Building on our assumptions, true or not. We think what we think. We believe what we believe.
My first foray into the world of evidence-based leadership (it didn’t have a name at the time), came because I was always very intuitive, but I got something very wrong early in my career. I felt like I valued truth and evidence, but it turns out I didn’t view it as important as I should. So I made up my mind I was going to do better. I started leaning on evidence to make sure my intuition was even more accurate. My curse was that my intuition was so highly accurate. Until it wasn’t.
I had to exercise great care to make sure I wasn’t looking for “facts” to back up my intuition. I wanted to follow the facts wherever they took me, then engage my intuition. It was a process, but I worked at it and got better by exercising the skills.
Think about a time you got it completely wrong. Wrong about a person. Wrong about a situation. How did you feel?
It’s awful. Knowledge helps us avoid that feeling. Well, at least it can help us avoid it more often. Everybody gets it wrong sometimes. We follow evidence or knowledge only to realize…it’s not correct. Again, having humility and curiosity – and the bravery to question the answers we think are rock solid – help us become better leaders.
What do we already know to be true? I mean, really know. What things are we most certain about?
Clarification is part of the process that’s often overlooked in our quest to get on with solving the problem. Have you ever solved a problem only to find out THAT wasn’t the problem? Yeah, me too. That may feel even worse than getting something completely wrong. It’s a different kind of getting it wrong made worse because some work has taken place to solve a problem that wasn’t the real problem after all.
So you can see there really is no way to separate humility and curiosity from knowledge acquisition. Even when we think we have the knowledge, we often need to question it to make sure. But we’re in a rush. And I don’t know what for. Ten seconds to see the Facebook commenter was ignorant, foolish and lazy. Versus minutes to craft a harsh comment. It just doesn’t seem like a good exchange to me.
Lastly, we need to think about the source for our knowledge. Who are we going to listen to? Who will we ask?
Don’t limit yourself. More is better. It’ll validate or nullify the knowledge as true, or false, or something we’re not sure about. Leaders often have selective sources of knowledge. It’s a foolish path. Don’t negate the value of anybody to help you learn something. Many a leader has tripped because they didn’t like the source (the person), so they ignored knowledge that was being shared. Let the knowledge stand on its own. It either holds up, or it doesn’t. Or we’re not sure.
And seek knowledge as close to the work as possible. The people who do the work daily must be consulted. Their paycheck doesn’t determine their true worth in figuring out what’s wrong, and how to fix it. A minimum-wage worker who is vexed daily by an idiotic system can provide truth and knowledge more quickly than somebody who has never performed that task. Again, humility is at work helping us learn. Don’t discount the most ideal sources of knowledge because they’re not top-level management folks. Those closest to the work know more about what ails our organization at an operational level.
Learn, learn, learn! Make up your mind that you’re going to increase your knowledge, then get busy seeking answers – and questioning the answers you think you already have. Remember, the truth will always withstand rigorous testing.
Be well. Do good. Grow great!