"An organization's ability to learn, and translate that learning into action rapidly, is the ultimate competitive advantage." ~Jack Welch

"Leaders are more powerful role models when they learn than when they teach" - Rosabeth Moss Kantor

Too often we fear and avoid what we don’t understand. This can be a catastrophic problem for your career if it becomes persistent. The reason:

A changing marketplace requires reinvention on a regular basis and that requires you to LEARN new ways to conduct your business. The most successful people have a tendency to be the most curious about things they don’t know. They move fast when new opportunities present themselves, and through working their “learning” muscle, it becomes easier for them to embrace new ideas, system, and policies. This increases their skillsets and their knowledge of the operation.

How you deal with what you don't know shapes your career moving forward. Furthermore, as the leader, it is your responsibility to embrace what you don’t know:

What your staff duties are: Ideally you would always have an understanding of enough depth to be able to simply step into your staff’s role. This gives you an understanding of what they encounter on a daily basis, what struggles they have, and where there may be opportunities. If you came up through the ranks, it’s easy and simply needs maintenance as policies, systems and procedures evolve. But if you came in through another department or from outside the organization, you may not have this level of familiarity. You must conquer your fear of failure in front your staff and learn what they do. What you don’t know (your staff’s duties) will be essential to you managing. 

Too often the incoming manager is too busy to invest the time in training, and prefers to manage from his/her office through spreadsheets and “vision”. But without learning what he/she doesn’t know, efforts will result in marginalized improvement at best.

The latest “toys” available in your industry: The opposite side of the coin from your needs is your "wants" and what is available to your department. If you stay abreast of the changes in your industry you can easily match needs with solutions. This requires you to do a deep dive of learning into whether this creates more problems than it solves. New systems and processes take an enormous amount of time and effort to implement. Those who do it often “exercise” their ability to do so, and again, it becomes easier.

What is going on in the rest of the organization: I’ve spoken about this before, but there is an ENORMOUS opportunity in most organizations for sharing of knowledge amongst department heads. There are so many needs that have already been solved by other departments that could simply be “plugged into” another department without reinventing the wheel. Also, if you satisfy that curiosity about how another department operates, it simply adds to your tool chest of knowledge when they start passing around promotions. Either way, more knowledge isn’t going to be a bad thing at all.

Each time you run across something that you do not know or do not understand, know that you have come across an opportunity. Those who seize the most opportunities usually
win in the end. So don’t avoid what you don’t know, run towards it.

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