Why is it so hard to admit we don’t know?

Dear Readers,

In my role as coach it’s very tempting to pretend I know everything but that is so completely and utterly untrue. I am often surprised by how much I learn from my direct reports. They are experts in several subjects where I am a neophyte.

For instance, one of them baked 25 pies the day before Thanksgiving and while I could figure out how do that, I surely would not do it well my first time out! I bet she didn’t either!

Another person on my team is part of the agriculture community and she does a lot of farming with her family and again I think could figure out how to milk cows and do other tasks (see! I can’t even think of the basics of farming, let alone do them)  but I would definitely need a coach!

Today, I was not making pies or milking cows, but  found myself in a situation where I had to ask some questions about how to do something or how it worked. I have been “question girl” for most of my working life and yet it still fills me with dread to admit I don’t know or that I don’t fully understand something. Why?

What is so wrong with not knowing?

Why are we so afraid to admit we don’t know? If you are anything like me, you want to “look good” and keep “feeling” like the “expert” so you don’t ask or worse, pretend you know something to avoid asking the question and in so doing, you then tell someone else the wrong information. Has that ever happened to you? It’s happened to me and I had to go back to the person I misinformed and let them know, I made a mistake and this is actually the correct information.

It was humbling and a big relief that when I asked my questions today, someone else also had to ask in order to answer me. That means someone else ALSO didn’t know, and that is okay, because at the end of the day, when you are a supervisor or coach, you still get to have questions. It’s not as if when you accepted the position, you abdicated the right to ask questions or to say, “I don’t know”. I think the important part of this is that you know who does know or should know.

I think that when you hold a position of leadership it’s very easy to get caught up in the idea that you have to know all the answers. Guess what, you don’t. No one can! There is always something else to learn, so let go of that.

Think about it great coaches seek out other coaches. Getting back to my team examples, the pastry chef had someone give her a in-home study on pie baking and that’s not even her primary job any more. I am actively working on becoming a better speaker so I have enlisted the help of a coach myself and am actively getting better. I also have a music teacher who helps improve me each and every time I sing. So really, in having these mentors and coaches myself, I am figuratively saying, “I don’t know, teach me” and that can only make me better, right?

As lifelong learners, we are going to have to keep admitting we don’t know everything and the sooner we get comfortable with that, the better.

Think About It.

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