“A great challenge in life: knowing enough to think you are right, but not knowing enough to know you are wrong.” — Neil deGrasse Tyson
Far too often we are put on the spot, with the expectation of knowing. Knowing what happened. Knowing what is going to happen. Knowing the answer to the question. Having the solution. More often than not, or than we like to admit, we do not know. And yet, we will provide an answer because there is a need to be important, instead of learning and understanding the concerns that raised the question to begin with.
As a result, we live in a world where opinions are considered facts. We have “alternative facts.” We have “fake news.” We have politicians that are more concerned with being seen as correct and promoting their agenda rather than working towards what is best for their constituents. And cable news stations are more concerned about entertaining, providing opinions and frightening their viewers into believing the evils the other side (those not agreeing with their opinion) rather than providing actual, unbiased news. Is it any wonder the world is becoming more fragmented and arrogant? People offer advice and opinions without fully understanding what they (believe they) are helping with or solving. And they get insulted when you try to better explain the situation or mention what they are offering does not truly address the problem.
The first step is being open to the opinions and ideas of others. Rather than having the answer, ask questions that will lead to solution for the problem at hand, rather than the problem as you understand it. Be open to ideas is as important as being decisive, and gives the opportunity to learn. This is an opportunity to engage in conversation rather than a debate.
While we seem to have mastered speaking we have lost the ability to listen with the intent to understand. By listening, you get the opportunity to know that you may not fully understand the situation. Listening with the intent of understanding and question provides a sense of comfort for those around you and demonstrates a true concern to tend to their needs. Instead, we listen with the intent to respond as if we are expects in the lives of others. We forget that our past experience is not another’s current reality. There may be similarities, but it is not the same.
It is important to admit mistakes, demonstrating that you may not know. This is not about pride, but moving forward with viable solutions and the growth of everyone involved. In addition, mistakes can be used as teachable moments. Equally important is the possibility of ambiguity as you head down the path of problem solving. Embracing uncertainty also demonstrates faith that as a team, a solution will present itself.
Rather than being proud, arrogant and ignorant, we need to learn to be humble and open to new ideas, and the possibility that we may not know everything. Leaders are expected to serve the teams they lead. As a result, they need to recognize the value putting them first and helping them grow. Cynics on the other hand, will continue to rest on their laurels, claiming their past victories and successes as evidence of their expertise in a world that has move past them.