Crisis is in the air.
Coronavirus is raging, the market is crashing, oil prices crash means the entire countries are now on a verge of bankruptcy.
What are we to do?
In the last few days, I got calls from 3 different CEOs from very different countries, industries, and environments, all asking me the same question.
"What should I say? I don't know what to do yet, it's too uncertain, so what should I say to my people, my investors, my partners?"
Hearing this question brought me right back to 2015.
I was working with a company in crisis trying to survive while the whole industry was struggling.
Amidst sleepless nights and intense projects, I noticed one peculiar thing.
He was (and still is) a very bright, kind, and effective person.
But here, he would consistently raise his voice and become agitated and unproductive with seemingly reasonable questions and requests.
So, I asked him what's up.
"I don't know what to do. I don't know what to tell them when they all come to me for answers. So, I don't have any good answers, I get angry, and it spills over."
A kind, successful, all-around bad-ass professional was doing something extremely unproductive.
So, I told him. "Why do you think you always need to know the answer? Why can't you just say "I don't know" - and turn the question back to the one asking it?"
Years later, he still tells me THAT changed his life.
If you follow me on social media, you know that these days I am hanging out around Silicon Valley, working with a small group of top executives from some amazing global companies on reinvention.
And as we were wrapping up insights from our reinvention lab, I asked them what is the #1 strategy they are taking home.
"I don't know."
The power of 4 words.
Allowing yourself to admit that you don't know is perhaps one of the most courageous and revolutionary acts of leadership you can do in the middle of a storm.
"I don't know" frees you from the false security of past success and 'best practice' - as what saved you last time can be exactly what destroys you today.
"I don't know" invites you to see the world with fresh and open eyes.
"I don't know" allows your team, your partners, your community to do the same - as you become a role model for so many.
"I don't know" shows the level of confidence, self-awareness, and authenticity that brings about real trust.
And most importantly, "I don't know" releases all the energy you are currently spending on keeping up the illusion. The facade. The "I'm in control, I know what's going" pretense.
You can breathe out now.
I don't know. You don't know. In the world that's so volatile and uncertain, nobody knows. Not even the most admired expert, guru, or star.
So, we can stop wasting all that energy on keeping up a fake sense of surety - and roll up our sleeves.
We don't know. And now that we are free from all the masks and pretense, we will figure it out.
Dr. Nadya Zhexembayeva helps companies such as Coca-Cola, Kohler, and IBM turn change and disruption into an opportunity.
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