Recently, I saw a little cartoon with a sharp-toothed imp, all in green, smiling up at me from the screen and he was accompanied by the motto: Don’t be the best. Be the only. I love that. It takes the notion of achievement out of the competitive realm and into the one that actually counts, where you find what it is you and only you can offer to the world. It’s something that came to mind when I read one of Gail Blanke’s most recent Monday Morning Motivator emails entitled “You Don’t Have to Know Everything!” In it, she advises her readers to try not to know everything. Don’t be the smartest guy in the room—even if your I.Q. and long-term memory is far superior to everyone else’s. Here are some of the things she has to say:
“You’ve got better things to do than to be everybody’s go-to person on every subject all the time. We all know somebody (maybe you’re one of them..) who feels compelled to weigh in on every subject, every question, every situation – political, scientific, medical, economic, artistic, educational, literary – as the resident expert, the one who already knows it all and has to “teach” you. The “likeability” factor for those people usually isn’t a barn burner. The extremely well-intentioned, exceptionally smart Al Gore comes to mind.
“Whether you’re new in your first job, “old” in a newly challenging job, running a department or maybe even a company, you don’t have to know it all, or be good at everything or, as one insufferable guy bragged to me, be able to “sit behind every desk.” But you do have to be secure enough to admit to yourself – and anyone else who might be interested – that you don’t have all the answers or all the expertise. Then you have to identify the specific talent you need, uncover it in someone else, hire them or empower them and above all, trust them to do the job – and finally, appreciate them for what they uniquely bring to the team.
“And one more thing: What makes you unique? What do you deliver that’s as good as it gets? What’s the one thing that you can be counted on for – every single time? Maybe it’s your ability to build teams, or to bring out the best in people. Maybe you’re a visionary; great at reinventing or re-imagining the future. Or…maybe you’re the one who simply “gets it done.” Whatever it is, identify it, declare it and offer it. It’s always a good idea to complete this sentence: “I’m (your name) and I’m the one who…..” Invite everyone on your team to do the same thing. (Or in your family..) It’s always good to know what you can count on each other for and to “get it” that you don’t have to know everything, do everything or or be everything. And it’s a lot more fun.”
In my own words, I’d put it this way: “Even if you do know everything, just don’t be that guy.”