Stellar Coaching + Consulting

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Leading and Learning When You Already Know it All

In recent months, corporate demand for the leadership training that I offer has increased. From my perspective, this is a great thing and I am embracing the opportunities with immense gratitude. Feedback has been that the impact of these training and coaching sessions is increased effectiveness and renewed enthusiasm within leadership structures and approaches. 

In many cases the training is offered as a mandatory session for leaders. The intention is to ensure that all members of the leadership teams in question receive the same information, and have the same opportunity to work and grow together. This in turn leads to consistency across a corporate culture, when those in attendance go out and lead their teams.

For the most part, this approach is effective and well-received. There is, however, one proverbial fly in the ointment. This particular fly – a mindset employed by some leaders – can often detract from the potential effectiveness, if not derail it altogether.

It’s the thinking that “I already know this” – what I call, “expert” mindset.

Those who come to training sessions with an “expert” mindset often exude subtle messages:

  • “ I don’t need to be here”
  • “ I have better things to do”
  • “there’s nothing you could teach me that I don’t already know – this is a waste of time.”

I will confess: I myself have held this mindset at various times in my own life. I’m not proud of it; and I’m aware that it has happened. Here’s what I’ve learned from having been there myself.

When we choose to stand in “expert” mindset, there may be a modicum of truth that feeds it. We may well have learned about the topic before; it might be true that we know a fair bit. Fair enough.

Approaching any training from the space of “I already know this”, however, automatically closes us off from potential growth, and the chance to elevate our game. In other words, as good as you are, you’re not going to get any better. Given that growth is an essential part of effective leadership, it is imperative that we step away from that expert mindset, and stand solidly in curiousity.

No matter how good you are, how knowledgeable you are, how effective your approach, how elevated your status, there’s always room for growth. Because you’re human, and growth is part of the game.

When you stand in curiousity, you elevate your leadership impact. Asking questions like:

  • how am I already using this, and how effective am I being?
  • how is this different, if only subtly, from what I think I know?
  • where can I try this approach with new energy?

can help to ensure that you’re keeping things fresh, and not shutting yourself off from possibility.

And here’s something to bear in mind: knowing is different from doing. You can know something intellectually all you want, and if you are not using tools that you claim to know are effective, then you don’t really know how they work. Knowledge isn’t very helpful if you don’t put it into practice.

Bottom-line: as good as you are, you can always be better. The way to be better is through on-going learning. So it’s time to ditch the expert-mindset, and stand instead in curiousity. Get curious, with a view to growing and serving. And paradoxically, you will, in fact, become an expert leader (who continues to stay curious).

Tracy Harvie