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Why Being a Fool isn't so Foolish
by Kevin Eikenberry

A fool can be defined as "someone who lacks good judgment."

I`m sure you would agree that being called a fool isn`t something most would consider a complement.

So why then am I suggesting that you consider being a fool?

Actually, I`m not encouraging you to "lack good judgment" - on the contrary, the suggestions that follow will prove that you have incredibly good judgment; it just might not be considered "common judgment" or even what your first reaction might be.

Let me explain.

As a leader and professional you want to be informed and "know your stuff," this can lead to the challenges outlined in what I call The Paradox of Expertise.

Part of the paradox is how your expertise can get in your way with those you are leading or trying to work with in any way. While you need to be knowledgeable and informed, you also need to be able to influence, engage and persuade others. Your ability to do this can rest on more than just your expertise, but also your relationships and humility.

So while your first reaction or common judgment might be to share what you know about a situation immediately, that might not serve you best. In other words, in order to reach your desired results you may need to downplay your knowledge rather than directing attention to it.

Here are five things you can do to help get better results for yourself, others and your organization. Granted, they may seem foolish at first, but they will help (no foolin`).

Look for what you don`t know. Rather than looking for what you do know that you can apply to a situation, approach any problem or challenge with an open mind and scanning eyes. Look for subtle differences. Look for new opportunities. Consider situations as learning opportunities rather than the chance to showcase what you already know.

Ask more questions - including "foolish" ones. Sometimes the naïve or foolish question is the most important one. When you approach situations based on what you already know, you make assumptions that may hide a critical factor or issue. Develop the skill of a master "question asker," rather than only an expert "question answerer."

Listen longer. Asking a question is only half the task. Next comes the crucial skill of listening. After you ask a question (especially if you think you already know the answer), listen. And then listen some more. Listen expecting new knowledge and information. Listen for facts and insight. Listen.

Allow time for others to share. Your goal should be to get everyone`s opinion on the table, so you will need to spend the time required to get everyone`s input whenever possible. Doing all of this first will set the team up for greater agreement and understanding.

Leave your opinions until last. If you are doing the rest of these suggestions, this one almost comes naturally. Yet, the importance of this step cannot be overstated. Your first three tasks almost always need to be ask, listen and learn - in that order. Of course your opinion matters, as a leader people will want to know your thoughts and ideas. But if during the "ask, listen and learn phase" the group already shares your idea, let it be theirs.

If you have an additional idea, adding it later in the conversation will make it more accepted and understood. By letting others share their ideas first you are creating a climate of engagement and commitment that won`t come as easily when you remain in the expert role.

These actions may not leave you feeling as expert or knowledgeable as before, but it will be hard to argue with the results.

Potential Pointer: Recognize that your knowledge and expertise is absolutely valuable, yet sometimes it is best to not share your expertise right away so you can value and use the input of others too.

Kevin Eikenberry may be contacted at

Kevin Eikenberry is a leadership expert and the Chief Potential Officer of The Kevin Eikenberry Group (, a learning consulting company. To receive a free Special Report on leadership that includes resources, ideas, and advice go to or call us at (317) 387-1424 or 888.LEARNER.


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