“If you want to learn, be willing not to know.” (Julio Olalla, president of the Newfield Network, a coaching school and consulting company in Latin America and the United States)
We strive in our businesses and life to KNOW and to be RIGHT! Leaders, in particular, are faced with this dilemma in dealing with change and in making financial decisions. The reality is ambiguity and uncertainty are present in our work and lives. The question is, “Can I give myself permission not to know?”
Here is an example from a nonprofit who I work with. The Executive Director is developing metrics to measure the effectiveness of the organization’s services and programs and how they impact the clients they serve. But, how do you establish metrics for staff being a “caring presence” to those whom they serve? To be a caring presence goes beyond just hospitality and common courtesies. It is the “condition of being consciously and compassionately in the present moment with another or with others.”
We discussed that maybe trying to establish metrics for being a caring presence would undermine staff’s ability to be that. Is it possible to be open with not knowing? Is there another way to assess caring presence that is not based on metrics?
The Executive Director emailed me a recently received video that a teenager did by herself sharing how this organization’s summer camp changed how she sees herself; it gave her life again, happiness, her depression and anxiety have lessened. She opened up her heart in this video in how the camp experience transformed her life. The Executive Director followed up with an email that said, “Now, how do I put a metric to that? Number of tears?”
By not knowing the answer, the Executive Director was allowing himself to be open to other possibilities, to be open to learning something new, and not push himself to a conclusion. He is comfortable with not knowing at this point.
Making peace with not knowing is a mindful practice that leaders will find helpful in responding to ambiguity and uncertainty. An answer may come or not. But, by slowing down and not pushing for an answer, the pause in doing so may lead you to a different possibility.
(Make Peace With Not Knowing is a mindful practice from the book 52 Ways to Shift Any Outcome in Less Than a Minute – Practical Mindfulness for Leaders by Jennifer Sellers, Sheri Boone, Kate Harper )