Tuesday, December 10, 2013

'Tell Me Something I Don't Know'

How many times have we heard someone say that, or said it ourselves? It’s an expression we use when someone overstates the obvious—a way of agreeing with what they just said.

But think about it: How often do we actually say that, and mean it?

Over my years as a business advisor and consultant, I’ve been struck by a simple truth: We don’t know what we don’t know. We look for solutions, but we don’t know where to look—or, in some cases, what we should be looking for.

Usually, that comes from not asking the right questions. It’s important in business, as in life, to look at ourselves and our circumstances honestly. Too often, we see managers make the mistake of surrounding themselves with people who tell them what they want to hear, instead of what they need to hear and what would be valuable for them to hear.

How about you? Do you have one or more trusted advisors who will tell you the truth? They might be internal, such as key managers or associates, or external, such as a business coach or a collection of peers in an executive networking group. Wherever you can find them, it’s important to have your “go-to” people who can help you assess your strengths and weaknesses and do something about them.

Too often I’ve observed executives and managers who appear concerned about bringing in strong people to work with them. It’s as if they are intimidated by people who have skills they don’t have. They want to appear in control, and behave as if it would be a sign of weakness to surround themselves with accomplished and experienced professionals. Unfortunately, those are the people who end up spiraling out of control.

Don’t make that mistake. What can you do now, today, to start down a different path? Where can you turn to learn from others and gain honest, valuable insights that will make a difference for your business, and for you as a leader?

Ask the right questions. Find the person, or group of persons, who will give you a no-holds-barred assessment of where you stand. See your world through their eyes, and see for yourself how what you don't know has been holding you back. It’s a critical way to improve your circumstances and truly move forward.

Jim Ondrus pioneered the management concept of Leadership Transitioning. He is president of JA Ondrus, LLC, a Canton, Ohio executive coaching firm.