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Courage to Learn (#7)

The Confident Leader

Jim, a seasoned industry veteran CEO, is a smart guy.  He knows what he knows. He’s also clear on what he doesn’t know. “I’m not a doctor. I do not know how to perform a surgery.” He says confidently.

But these two facts alone are not sufficient to thrive during tumultuous times. His challenge: he doesn’t know what he doesn’t know. This fact often creates doubt in leaders without them even knowing it. Some settle for what they already know. Others pretend to know it all.

As leaders, we must unearth as much information as possible to make sound decisions in volatile times. Yet how many of us are truly diligent in learning what we don’t know?

In a world of change, the learners shall inherit the earth, while the learned shall find themselves perfectly suited for a world that no longer exists.
— Eric Hoffer

This Week’s Edition

As a leader, do you tell or ask? Telling stops the conversation. “Do this!” Asking keeps the dialogue going. “What do you need?” Both are useful, but if learning something new is your goal which approach is better?

Clarify Your Thinking

In a recent coaching session, Jim offered the following, “My sales are in the tank due to Covid. No one is buying anything. My business is struggling.”

“Have you picked up the phone and called your customers?” I asked.

“No. Why would I? They’re only going to tell me they can’t buy anything right now.” Jim said. This assumption is where doubt takes hold.

“First, how do you know what they will say, you haven’t reached out to give them a chance to tell you? Second, if that is their answer, you can always ask them the second question.” I offered.

“What’s the second question?” He asked.

“It’s the power question.” I continued.

“What’s the power question?” I could tell I had him interested.

“It’s the question that keeps the conversation going. The question, in the moment, that allows you to learn something you didn’t know before.”

·      How has Covid impacted your business?

·      Has your original need for our product changed?

·      If not, do you want to get creative about how to fill your need?

·      If it has changed, what are your new needs?

When we think we know what someone will say, we won’t ask them. When we think we know the answer about something, we will not pursue additional knowledge. We settle for what we think we already know. Ignorance is bliss. On the other hand, leaders who ask questions can achieve learning and growth.

Jim changed his thinking. “Robin, you make a good point. I don’t know what my customers are thinking. I don’t know what they need during the pandemic. I don’t know exactly why they aren’t buying. I am only guessing and assuming. I want to find out exactly what’s going on with my customers” He declared.

“Good thinking.” I said.

 To move past the doubt brought on by guessing, assumptions and ignorance, download the Clarify Your Thinking Worksheet. 

post pandemic vision

Thoughts Lead to Actions

With new thinking, Jim was ready to learn something new. But, he was stuck. How should he go about getting the new information?

 Our conversation led him to the idea that he could be a first responder for his customers by reaching out to his clients with care and compassion during the crisis. His conversation starter: “How are you? How has the pandemic impacted you these past months? I just wanted to check on you.”

Quickly, Jim’s initial fear was realized. His customers were not prepared to make new purchases during the pandemic. This did not stop Jim. He kept the conversation going by asking a second question, and another, and another.

Jim’s approach yielded pure gold. Contrary to his initial impressions, many customers were eager to engage in the conversation. He gathered more new information than he could keep up with, including product needs, customer habits, referrals, and other valuable information about the market. His mining expedition uncovered two useful nuggets:

·      An extension of his product specifically for health and safety during Covid times AND

·      A possible new market for his current products, something he had overlooked.

Both of these nuggets led to a considerable increase in new sales. He experienced growth even during a pandemic. Jim recognized that his willingness to admit gaps in his knowledge and his persistence in filling those gaps is what allowed his company to grow.

Jim’s research also came with an unexpected benefit. His affinity for his clients grew as a result of the calls. Jim began to offer additional support to his customers in whatever way they needed even beyond his traditional services.

Complete the coaching assignment to prepare for your own scavenger hunt to discover what you might not know.

Boost Your Performance

It takes humility to recognize you may not know everything you need to lead. It takes courage to strike out to learn something new. Who do you want to be: the learned or the learner? Boost your performance by answering that question for yourself today.

What’s Your Opinion?

Email me your best “power” question.

Don’t let Doubt count you out. Do your leadership part and commit to a hearty restart. Have a confident week!

robin pou, chief advisor and strategist

Robin Pou, Chief Advisor and Strategist

If this was helpful, feel free to share it with another leader who needs to defeat doubt and complete their confidence.

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What is “The Confident Leader”?

During the Covid-19 Pandemic, I began a video series called “Panic or Plan?” It was designed to equip leaders to navigate the doubt they experienced and to rise in the confidence they needed to lead during turbulent times. It took off. I then started this newsletter to equip leaders in the same fashion each week for the doubt that crashes across the bow of their leaderSHIP.

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