We received some very nice comments about last week’s post, thank you, and also another question that deserves some thought.

“What do you do with people who don’t know enough to know whether or not they are going to hurt the business?”

Last week we talked about how to establish the 3-5 rules that, if set, could help guide individuals and teams as they are tackling all the things that come at them day-to-day and week-to-week. The challenge of course, is that people only know what they know and they don’t know what they don’t know. It almost seems ridiculous to have a title of a post that asks “how do I help people know what they don’t know,” since by the very nature of the question, they don’t know it. Yet, there are some ways to help people notice the things around the edges of their vision that can catch their attention and help them know what they don’t know.

You may be getting close to uncovering something you don’t know when:

  • Someone asks you to do something over again and yet, you believe you’ve done it correctly. (Ask yourself: What am I missing here?)


  • You are trying to innovate but you seem to be doing things as you have always done them. (Ask yourself: What has me stuck?)


  • You are getting feedback that you are not hitting the mark and you are certain you’re on target. (Ask yourself: Do I understand the target?)


  • You find yourself being certain—certainty is rarely a good plan for great leaders—curiosity is always a better approach. (Ask yourself: What information does my certainty hide?)


  • You continue to get the same results despite a longing for something new. (Ask yourself: What do I gain/lose by staying the same?)


  • Someone who matters to you tells you that you are making a mistake. (Ask yourself: What data am I hesitant to see?)


  • You say something and everyone in the room becomes awkwardly silent and then proceeds as if nothing happened. (Ask yourself: What might they be responding to?)


As you talk to people you lead or manage, you can help them notice that they may be bumping into something that they don’t know they don’t know. If they are willing to explore, they can get a picture of what they may be missing. If they have no interest in knowing what they don’t know, you may need to go back to your 3 – 5 rules and add, “You are curious about what you don’t know and you aggressively seek to understand it.”