In life, and in leadership, it is quite easy to answer questions with deflection. For some, a sign of weakness in themselves in the inability to answer the questions of their followers. So, let’s take a look at how reflecting can help us to build our personal development skills.
Building our personal development skills.
I tend to disagree that not knowing the answer is a weakness. Instead choosing to believe that a leader will never have all the answers or solutions to problems which confront them. A leader’s strength comes from their willingness to accept this fact, and find appropriate remedies for a lack of insight they have in the given area. For most, this can begin with asking a good question, and asking it to the right person.
“Risk comes from not knowing what you’re doing” – Warren Buffett.
The first step to solving a problem is acknowledging there is one, and leaders should heed this advice. Instead of making Captain’s calls, or making bad decisions, choose to learn more about the situation before making irrational decisions.
Tony Abbott, former Australian Prime Minister, made such a call when he gave an Australian Knighthood to Prince Philip. What he found out, after the fact, was that many Australian’s tended to disagree with his judgment. The failure to ask questions to validate his decision, before he made it, might have just cost his position in the highest office of Australia.
What can we learn?
What we can learn from this, is the necessity to know as much as we can before making decisions at all levels. A great leader must be able to demonstrate sound self-awareness, and more than anything, the ability to understand their own strengths, weaknesses and limitations. This kind of understanding enables us to acknowledge our flaws, and ensure they do not get the best of us.
So, next time you’re asked a question and you do not have the answer: don’t answer it. There is no shame in not knowing, rather the shame lies in reckless decision making. Similarly, don’t answer it with, I don’t know. Three words we all choose to dislike, perhaps even hate. Ask for some time to reflect before answering, and then do exactly that. Reflect on the most appropriate answer, or the best way to solicit the information needed to answer these questions. Ask what is personal development? What are the leadership skills I need? What personal development plan should I use to go forward? Then reflect.
In business, we do not always have the luxury of time, so in its absence ask another question to someone who knows the answer. The more information you have to work with, the more sound decisions you can make. The CEO of a pharmaceutical firm is unlikely to understand the chemical composition of every front line medical product they produce. So why would such a person be qualified to answer the question?
They aren’t. Just like many of us who lead groups and organisations do not have all the answers, and nor should we assume to. Use those communication skills. Those interpersonal skills. Go out and ask questions, instead of answering questions wrong. Reflect on those questions which you do not know the answers to, and devise strategies to overcome that lack of information. That strategy might be spending time flicking through Google, reading a book on it, or asking someone else the question. Personal development skills can be difficult to develop, but reflection is one seriously great way to start.
When we are willing to accept our flaws, we can work to mitigate them, perhaps even eliminate them. Own your limitations, and similarly overcome them.