Growing up in a council estate in one of the poorest counties in England is not the best start in life. Early on I was faced with two choices: learn to run, or learn to fight. I was a really crappy runner, so the choice was pretty much made for me. I joined a martial arts class with my £1 that my Nan used to give me when I saw her on a Sunday.
It is fair to say that I found a core passion of my life at the age of around six and I feel that I owe many of my values, attitudes and beliefs to the martial art I started out in (it is not relevant what style, grade or teacher by the way because there are lots of systems and styles that are suitable for one person, but not another).
From an early age I saw relatively junior grades coaching those who were more junior than them. Perhaps by a belt or two. These were children, all from the same crappy area, in the same crappy situation (sometimes even worse than each other) who found a way to lift each other up.
People ask me how long I have been an educator for and it often makes them think I have lost my marbles when I tell them I have been teaching since I was around nine years old. I taught a grown man how to kick a heavy canvas bag for his first time and I never looked back.
Although I never knew it at the time, learning how to impart new knowledge and skills on people led me to my health and safety career. I started out informally providing advice and guidance based on my own (very limited) knowledge. Then I did something far more profound.....I made this the focus of my time.
I became a formal educator in the traditional sense at around 21 years old by the time I reached 29 I was responsible for innovative education projects around the world and more established domestic projects too....All in health and safety.Here's the problem though...
If you're on a training course, there is a good chance that either you, or your employer has recognised the need. There is acknowledgement of "Conscious incompetence" and you are trying to remedy it - Great! This is just the tip of the iceberg though.
So what about when you don't know that you don't know? (It took me a while to get it too!). This is where the importance of 'other' learning really comes into its' own. Now there are a couple of problems with this:
Fear! If your boss, your peers, or anyone for that matter, looks to you for the answer, it can be reeeeeeaaaalllly hard to say "I don't know, I need some help." This can be true if you have an autocratic personality of a boss (more on leadership styles to follow in another article). This fear can burrow into your thoughts can lead to worry about job security ("Will they think I am not up to the task if I cannot provide a solution?") So your "conscious incompetence" remains hidden, with the potential to cause problems down the line.
Arrogance! When you think you know more than what you really do, this can be dangerous in many senses of the word. Knowing you don't know and trying to wing it is something risk takers like to do. This is usually, but not always, displayed in high ego-driven roles (sales, market trading etc.) Who has got the biggest......car? Again, not knowing the answer to a questions is glazed over with either a completely incorrect answer, lucky guess or a diversion answer.Potential soultions
You may not want to discuss your lack of knowledge of a subject with your colleagues, or even peers you know outside of work. However you can reach out to wider networks!
Joining some groups on LinkedIn is a great idea to share....ideas! Giving your views to workplace questions can help you grow your network and also learn from others if you are not correct. Often, people will post articles, journals, links to outside material you may have never heard of before. I was new to construction in 2000 and someone on LinkedIn happened to share an article on pre-fabricated units from "Construction Enquirer." I followed the link and there were lots of articles relating to all manner of construction articles on there. I now advise people in construction to subscribe to Construction Enquirer too (it's free): http://www.constructionenquirer.com/
Attend networking events! Give your time up for them. Not just in your chosen occupation or profession. I am a health and safety practitioner, but I am advising C-Managers. Would it not be sensible to attend networking events with C-Managers? Learn how your clients or your employer 'speaks' and learn their 'language.'
I personally enjoy attending CIOB run events because I find they have high quality speakers, even though only 20% of my client base are construction managers. The majority of my construction clients tend to be designers (50%) with the remaining clients being in other sectors entirely. There is sometimes a fee for non-members but they feed you well and put you in a room with fellow professionals.
Find yourself one (maybe two) people who you can trust and bounce ideas off. Make insane suggestions in a 'safe' environment and know that you are not being judged for it. It's often something we overlook when we develop our CPD, but having someone you can call or E Mail for advice and know how, or even refer you to someone / somewhere else to help is the most valuable form of "Giving" I have ever come across. I am very lucky to have several of these trusted people in my career to date.
Finally, if you can, volunteer! Mentoring, coaching, peer reviewing, deliver CPD events....anything! It may sound hard with your other time commitments (work, family, leisure, study...sleep), but the level of satisfaction, introductions and furthering your own knowledge you get may surprise you.
One of the most rewarding things I do is volunteer my time to sit on Peer Review Interviews with IOSH. This is the final stage in the process for a person who has applied to become a Chartered Safety Practitioner. I have only been doing this since May 2017 but I have already seen so much more to the profession by helping others to achieve their ambition.
I voluntarily offer CPD sessions to professional organisations too. This keeps me on my toes because the room is almost always full of professionals who have a question about the topic you have come to present on...this means I need to dot the "I's" and cross the "T's" quite a bit (also why it's good to have those trusted people I mentioned earlier!).
In summary, giving helps those in receipt of the 'give' and it also helps you to expand your horizons further than a council estate where you need to learn to run or fight!
If you found this article useful or have anything further to add, I welcome constructive comments and debate. Feel free to share amongst your own network too.
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