Creating Space for Not Knowing

As leaders, we get paid to know. We have expertise, be it in numbers, markets, strategies, etc. and people expect us to impart that knowledge. Consequently, we are often uncomfortable with not knowing. We might be afraid that if anyone finds out that we don’t know something, they’ll judge us as incompetent or unfit for our position. But with upleveling, there is so much that is unknown. And that isn’t a bad thing!

When approaching an uplevel, you are typically preparing for something that you’ve never done before. Trying something new and operating at a completely different level can create a lot of positive energy—excitement, anticipation, hope. But it can also create anxiety and stress. This week we are looking at how to be in a state of “not knowing.” When you approach your uplevel with a beginner’s mind, you embark not from a place of fear but with a curiosity and openness that allows you to be with what is.

When we embrace the space of not knowing, wonderful things can start to happen as we tap into our curiosity we begin to experience:

  • New ideas
  • Different ways of thinking
  • Innovation
  • Discoveries and insights that better prepare us to uplevel

One of my clients expressed that while she was comfortable with the idea of not knowing, she didn’t feel that she could present to her team that way. After all, they looked to her for answers! But when she took my advice and focused a team meeting on the unknown, it was one of the best discussions they ever had. Being honest about not knowing opened up space for a frank and realistic conversation about what had to be done to move forward.

So start trying to get comfortable with not knowing. Help your team to get comfortable. Encourage a period of not knowing during a project so that you can be open to exploring elements that you may have previously overlooked. Embrace the newness of your uplevel and weave the insights that emerge from not knowing into your planning. Then once you launch, you will be ready to confront with gusto all the exciting and productive unknowns to come!

Weekly Uplevel Practice

Finding comfort in not knowing is no easy task. There is a vulnerability to not knowing and you may never be completely comfortable with that. To get started, ask yourself these important questions:

  1. What do you see as the potential benefits of not knowing?
  2. How will you make space for it?  Do you need to schedule “innovation time?”  Or go out in nature to rejuvenate? Or gather with others to brainstorm?
  3. How will stay in that space long enough to explore it and emerge with something new?  

When you get comfortable with not knowing, you will find a deep source of personal power and agility. And when you’re upleveling—creating something completely new and innovative—that’s priceless.