Our personal Lean Journey is filled with new treasures as we explore and learn. But these treasures of wonder are often hidden in what seem like deep, large pitch black caverns of unknown and uncomfortable territory. While I was recently listening to the LSSAcademy Podcast I was prompted to consider my own answer to Ron Pereira’s first question, “What is your favorite Lean quote?” I’m going to have to use Captain Picard on this one: “Engage!”
It seems too often we approach a new situation or a new problem and our protective nature turns on and suggests subconsciously for us to retreat to more safe territory. Each of us reacts differently when exposed to unfamiliar issues. But this is where the quote comes in. I realized this perspective when I was going through my graduate school program and subsequently when I started working as a manufacturing engineer. I consistently was surprised to find that many people respected me. I just could not figure out why for a long time. I never felt any “smarter” than others, so what was it?
Eventually I came to realize that my “defense” mechanism when I am in a new situation or approaching a new issue is to embrace that discomfort and engage! That is, I start poking at what I don’t understand. Ask questions. Look around for understanding elsewhere. Look for motives and root causes. Be stubbornly curious. This can be very uncomfortable at first because you are exposing your ignorance to others. Just remember many others may not even have a full understanding themselves. Or if they happen to be an expert I think you will find they will respect you for engaging the material until you have a full understanding. We need to remind ourselves to “get out of our comfort zone.” That simple act of showing you will not be satisfied until you “get it” will earn you miles of respect. I guarantee it.
Here are some tips:
- Remind yourself and others that “we are all always learning”
- Acknowledge and embrace the discomfort you feel when exposed to new situations and new problems
- Engage that discomfort by asking questions
- Accept any foolishness you may feel is normal when you expose your ignorance
- Be patient, persistent and trust yourself
After years of this behavior, you will be well respected and sought after as the expert you never thought you could be.