As a leader, we take on the role of owning both good and bad decisions. We have the responsibility to help people take necessary risks to become the
As a leader, we take on the role of owning both good and bad decisions. We have the responsibility to help people take necessary risks to become their best, and stop people when they’re about to make a game-changing error. And, many times we’re assigned the role as leader because someone assumes that we know the right and wrong answers.
Our credentials assume our mastery. Our depth of experience presumes an expertise. And our title grants us the confidence to believe these things are true–that we actually know what we are doing.
But here’s the truth: we don’t know what we’re doing.
Let’s set that idea free. Let’s shout it from the mountaintops. Let’s all be honest about it–because when we finally are honest, our success will double.
Disagree that you don’t know what you’re doing? Make any argument you want. You’re wrong. We’re all wrong. The truth is; we only know what we’ve done. We know how we achieved success last time.
And that experience is priceless. But, it doesn’t mean we know exactly what we’re doing this time, quite simply, because we cannot predict the future–we aren’t one hundred percent sure it will be the same, or that the hurdles we face will be similar, or that the situation of tomorrow will look anything like yesterday.
If you want to succeed, as a leader, an entrepreneur, or as a human being living in our world today, the one thing you must admit is that you do not know what tomorrow brings, therefore you don’t know exactly what you’re doing.
And here’s the real truth: that’s okay. In fact, if you can admit it, you’re closer to future success than all your competitors.
How do you bolster success by admitting you don’t know exactly what you’re doing? Here are five ways to open your mind to the unknown.
1. Welcome change.
Sure, they seem like obvious words. We all know change is inevitable. But, throughout the thousands of people I’ve ever interviewed, welcoming changing seems to be one of the hardest aspects to overcome. And it’s for good reason. Renown psychologist James Prochaska proposes that “we often find ourselves in the previously described predicaments as a result of our perception of change.”
Of course, this could mean different things to different people as all of our perceptions could vary greatly, based on our previous predicaments. But that’s the point: we need welcome new predicaments–because they’ll arrive whether we want them to or not.
2. Adopt ways, only to learn how to bend.
While it’s smart to create best-practice procedures, it’s not so smart to rigidly abide by them. What am I talking about? I’ve consulted with far too many organizations that achieve success once by following certain procedures and are somehow confused when those practices don’t create the same level of success 5, 10, or even 20 years later.
Creating “ways” works because you’re documenting how, when, why, and under what circumstances a procedure works. But they don’t work when they resist change–bending to meet the needs of tomorrow.
3. Seek hurdles and adversaries.
This may seem odd, but claiming that you know what you’re doing means you haven’t yet consulted with your adversaries or sought your next hurdle. If you truly want to be successful, you’ll seek challenge and disagreement. By no means am I suggesting that you compromise to everyone, or overcome every challenge. But I am suggesting that these are the places where you will find the greatest area of improvement.
4. Focus on human hang-ups.
It’s easy for any leader to get caught up in productivity, efficiency, and results. That’s business. It matters. But, unless we truly understand all of the aspects that affect people, and how we can positively influence people, we’ll never discover true success.
5. Fail graciously.
This doesn’t mean patting your competitor on the back when they win. Failing graciously means being gracious for what you learned while getting beat–all the things you learned in the process. When I ask leaders around the world about their most impactful learning moments, most of the time, they tell me stories of failure. These are the moments that resonate the most.
While credibility, character, experience, and success are great teachers, the one thing every great leader knows is that all of these things live in the past. It is only when we accept that we cannot predict the future–that we don’t exactly know what we’ll do tomorrow–that we can understand the change that is necessary to achieve in it.
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.
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