Have Confidence In Your Inabilities

You’ll be happy to know that I have complete confidence in the work I do. I have confidence in my ability to be an excellent trusted advisor to CEOs and business owners, to guide leadership teams to greater success, and to come up with creative ideas for solving intractable problems…among other things required of someone who has been called Yoda by a few clients.

I also have complete confidence in my inability to do anything requiring detailed work and extended effort, follow the rules and do things repetitively, and curb my short attention span and wanderlust.

But most of all I have complete confidence in my inabilities around technology. I can cause any technological system to fail, just by looking at it.

Once I was in a store checking out. The clerk asked me to enter my credit card code. Upon doing so, the cash register crashed. Not only the cash register but the store’s entire computer system. They were not happy with me.

Often, I cause problems that my tech people tell me they never saw before or have even heard of. It happens so frequently that they created a name for it: a Full Smolinsky. It is not a term of endearment.

Complete confidence is something every leader needs. But complete confidence means confidence not only in your ability to succeed, but also in your ability to fail. An exceptional consultant I know shared with me a simple example of how this works for her.

She has complete confidence that if she goes to a business networking event she will only remember 2 people’s names afterwards. Not a particularly great result after meeting and having conversations with numerous people.

On the other hand, she has complete confidence that she can learn to do many, but not all, things, rapidly and well.

There is a condition called the Dunning-Kruger Effect. People who know little about a subject overestimate their cognitive ability and superiority. We see this in business all the time. The less you know the more you think you know.

But Complete confidence in your abilities means also knowing when you don’t know things… And when you’re completely confident you don’t know something, you don’t overreach your ability and try and do things at which you will fail. You’re able to engage in Fast Failing.

When you say, “I can’t do this so let’s find a different way to get it done,” it’s not a question of incompetence (as so many people misinterpret it) but a wise acknowledgement of the need to move from a place where you lack competence to a place where your competence can solve the problem.

Be honest about your competence. Work with it. Don’t overrate yourself in areas where you lack skill. Know your limits and find the expertise you need to support you when your needs exceed your abilities. When you realize you can’t succeed, accept it. Instead of driving towards protracted failure, figure out how to compensate and ensure success…even if it means handing the matter off to someone who really does have the confidence and competence to fulfill the need well.

My colleague manages to compensate for her inability to retain names by making sure to ask everyone she meets at an event for a business card.

As for me and my technological know-how gap (chasm), I have a girlfriend who is a technical guru with complete confidence in her ability to advise software writers on improving their programs. She can fix anything. Now, before I even finish yelling “Damn, I broke something again!”, she has appeared, banished me from the computer, and proceeded to fix the problem.

It’s a perfect solution with other benefits I leave to your imagination.









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