Monday, June 8, 2009

You don't know what you don't know

One of the most unique clients I ever had was a guy named Al Swenson. He was a polarizing guy. He was dashing, articulate. He also simply didn't care what you thought because he knew better. He had a crazy past of numerous jobs, wives and creative ideas. If you try to locate him, he's just as likely working at a dude ranch as he is in Corporate America.

He loved to perform, to present in front of people - no matter what the message, he wanted to get up there and speak. He had disciples - I remember one of them watching mesmerized as Al presented. The disciple turned to me and said, "I just love listening to Al. I'm not even sure what he's saying, but I love hearing him. I want to be like Al some day."

One day, during a business brainstorming session, we were struggling to solve an issue for his company. Al turned to me and proclaimed, "You don't know what you don't know." If he was merely a friend of mine, I would've given him some grief - but he was my client and so I kept my mouth shut. Secretly, I thought that was the dumbest thing I've ever heard.

Now, a decade or so later, I realize Al was brilliant. His point of "You don't know what you don't know" was genius. Apply it, for example, to an employee. Let's say you're disappointed in the way he/she handled a situation because it hurt your company. Well, did he know that before he did it? Probably not. Maybe our time is better spent teaching an employee stuff so he or she knows - it's a lot more positive than getting angry with them.

I didn't know what I didn't know. I didn't realize I needed to educate and inform before I should judge.

Thanks, Al.

Barry LaBov
LaBov & Beyond

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