One Pursuit that Trumps All Others
Energy without practical know-how is futility.
Persistent failure reflects lack of practical know-how. Most leaders don’t fail for lack of trying.
If you’re persistently failing – in the same area – you lack practical know-how.
Every meaningful achievement comes from practical know-how.
The leadership pursuit that trumps all others is the pursuit of practical know-how.
Five ways to gain practical know-how:
#1 Reflect on success. You learn far too little from your successes.
- What did you do to achieve desired results?
- Be careful to identify the actual affect that produced the desired effect. You may not know the real reason for your success. It takes smart work, not just hard work, to succeed.
- Examine success by asking teammates what’s making things work.
#2. Try things and see how they work.
#3. Complete what you begin.
- Perseverance is a great teacher when combined with reflection.
- Quitting is the first step back to the same unsatisfying place.
- Practical know-how is found when you begin again in new ways. Pick yourself up – don’t beat yourself up.
#4. Honor your potential by believing in your ignorance. People who don’t gain practical know-how, wrongly believe they already have it. Willful ignorance is a deadly blindspot that hampers arrogant leaders.
#5. Pursue excellence. How might you be even better? Don’t settle.
Bonus: Aggressively seek feedback.
Sharpen the saw before you cut down the tree.
Before practical know-how:
Humility precedes practical know-how.
The first enemy of gaining practical know-how is believing you have it, even though you’re persistently failing. The second enemy of gaining practical know-how is blaming others for your failure.
Without practical know-how, leaders waste energy, squander resources, and elevate frustration.
Many have titles, but real leaders possess practical know-how.
What prevents people from gaining practical know-how?
How might leaders gain practical know-how?
How might leaders gain practical know-how?
Partner with those who can! ..often it’s a “win” for both sides. I wish I had more willingness to partner in my 30’s..
Hi Ken. I’m with you. It took too long for me to realize that others had much to offer. But, now I know. 🙂
Very practical tips, thanks for sharing! All the best!
Thanks Steven. Best for the journey.
Great post! I really like #4.
Thanks Michelle. I appreciate the feedback. My favorite is #1. 🙂
I also really like number 4, as self-awareness which is a critical component of emotional intelligence, is a key to effective leadership. Admitting what you don’t know and finding someone who does know is great, but you can’t do it too often or else you may be seen as incompetent. I’ve found that this is a delicate balance. One of Dan’s recent posts mentioned something about new leaders have the opportunity to be curious, and that resonates here because the more practical-know-how you can bank earlier in your leadership journey, the better.
Thanks Chris. I love the idea of competent incompetence. If all you have is what you “can’t do” then you can’t be trusted to lead.
So true…soak it all in.
It takes humility to recognize we don’t know it all and that there is always something to be learned – we just need to be open to the possibilities, whether it’s from mentors, networking, workshops, good reads, advice from those who’ve “been there”.
Thanks Mary. You said something so simple, yet profound. “There is always something to learn.”
Sharpen the saw before cutting the tree……I need to remind myself of this.
I like #1 the most; too often upon success I move onto the next thing and fail to reflect on why we succeeded. On failure we dig in and reflect, not so much on success. Good stuff!
Thanks Brad. I think it’s easier to learn from failure than success. It’s important to learn from both. The value of reflection continues to be an important idea that keeps rising to the top.
Great list for pursuit of practical know-how (and the inclusion of ‘practical’ is so very important; I often use ‘usable’ or ‘useful’ as that’s what practical is for me). It involves being willing to make false steps and learn from them. If any of us are addressing meaningful situations, I’m of the belief that adequate practical know-how will NEVER be sufficient. Considering (shameless plug for my blog http://johncbennettjr.com ) any topic utilizing what I often label the Effective Learning three-legged stool will yield some practical know-how. [The three legs: develop and use the skills of Effective Learning; review of effectively learn the appropriate core knowledge; and assess your level of understanding via addressing real-world situations – in this case leading up to addressing the situation at hand.]
But very consistent with your list, done in isolation has very little chance of sufficient practical know-how. You must aggressively seek feedback, regularly self-assess and reflect for revisions, try things expecting false steps that lead to further understand, assess outcomes to check for usefulness, see if you can explain your thinking to others, …
I recently read an important idea, maybe within this blog: Paraphrasing I’m sure, “Rather than ‘success or failure’, we all must dedicate ourselves to ‘success or success through learning from failure’.”
Thanks John. I’m thankful for your insights. I’m glad you included ideas about learning from failure.
“Adequate practical know-how will NEVER be sufficient.” You’re nailing an essential quality of successful leadership. I find the idea both powerful and challenging. It’s easy to slip into complacency.
“Expect false steps,” is so much better than perfectionistic leaders who have do their darnedest to prevent every mistake. In the process, everything slows down.
Thanks for sharing your insights. Have a great week.
I recently became a manager of a highly technical IT Team. I have 15 years of IT experience overall, but not in the particular technology my team supports. Some of my direct reports have 25+ years of experience in this technology. I’m thinking about this post on practical know-how and struggle a bit with the application of it in terms of the level or granularity of know-how I should pursue in various situations. I’m thinking that know-how in my current role as a manager/leader would be different than if I were actually doing the day to day technical work. My first course of action has been to simply learn what my team does, where their talents are, what they like about the job and conversely about their pain points. I’ve learned a lot over the last couple of months and for the most part it is not technical knowledge. However, I am struggling at times with not having the technical depth having held technical roles in the past. I’m at a point where I know what my team does, the importance of what they do and how their work fits into the organization, but I certainly do not know have the know-how to do the technical work and really do not have the time to build the in-depth technical knowledge of this particular technology.
Do you think practical know-how has to involve actual “hands-on” experience or would you say it depends on the role?