5 ways to know what you don’t know

These days I am defining a skills map for the business developers in my team and myself. Since my background is Communications, drawing such a map of knowledge in business skills is hard: I know what I know, I have the feeling that it’s not enough, but… how do I know what I don’t know!?

Valerie Coulton, our Internal training manager, English teacher and poet is helping me with this. Here are the 5 ways to find out what you don’t know.

Sit in you own ignorance, and:

1. Benchmark: Choose the best team or person in your category and analyse what is it that they know and you don’t. Be brave and compare yourself with the best in the world.

2. Do a thorough list of what you actually know. You will be surprised of how much it is. And then, set your level according to this five:

  • Level 1: I need training and regular support
  • Level 2: I have a working knowledge, but I still need some support
  • Level 3: I don’t need support in this to perform well
  • Level 4: I perform well and could teach others
  • Level 5: I’m an expert and a reference

Identify the key areas where your team or yourself should be in level 3, 4 or 5 and you’ll have the list of priorities to start your training program.

3. Visit departments close to you. Being in Marketing and Communications, I feel I am in between the Sales department and the Product Development Department. My team and I should have the skills to, not only understand our colleagues in other areas, but to be able to perform appropriately in their positions. I will never be the best Sales Director or the best Product Director, but I should be able to become an acceptable successor in the event of a maternity leave, for instance.

4. Ask others around you. Write down your CV and take the list of skills and levels you made in #2 and meet colleagues, your boss, your team, members of your network to ask them if they feel there’s something missing in your portfolio.

5. Do a retrospective. Think about the past 3-6 months and write down the moments where you felt you were struggling to do any given task. Analyse your performance too, and think about the activities that took too long or that required a high dose of energy and concentration.

“Real knowledge is to know the extent of one’s ignorance”. Confucius