Last week I was a coach on a Global Business Partnering programme with a group of senior finance people. How is that relevant, you’re wondering? What struck me most, and it’s not exclusive to this organisation at all, is that the higher up the tree you go the less able you feel to lay bare any gaps in your skills, knowledge or confidence. That is a tall order!

Fortunately, this particular programme builds in confidential one to one coaching sessions – and that is often where the magic happens.

For many, particularly in a corporate culture, admitting that we don’t know something or we don’t feel confident in particular skills could seem like career kamikaze. (Especially when you’ve been recruited for your superior business knowledge and experience.) And yet it is crucial to creating the opportunity to learn or to unearth new opportunities. Even more than that, having the humility to show that we believe others know more, or that they can help us develop, fosters an environment of knowledge and best practice sharing and a culture of personal growth.

My point is, create time and space to learn from others no matter what level you are in your career. As leaders, when we want change or development in the people around us modelling that openness to development and change ourselves is a powerful step. What can get in the way is the belief that by admitting we aren’t ‘all-knowing’ we diminish our power to influence – both those who report to us and our peers. But that is only one source of power. How about the power of curiosity or agility in our thinking, creativity or collaboration?

So how do we find out what we don’t know?

Feedback, curiosity, listening, observation, open conversations and self-awareness – all are powerful.  In the words of Larry King, ‘Nothing I say today will teach me anything.’

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