6 Things to Do When You Don't Have a Clue

Perhaps you convinced them you were ready, or maybe someone convinced you. Either way, you’re in a new job or staring at a new project and don’t have the slightest clue where to start. You feel stupid on the inside and you wonder how badly it’s showing on the outside. Everyone’s looking to you for direction. Now what?

A Story of Not Knowing

“I know one thing, that I know nothing”-Socrates

I recently conducted a workshop on trust and strategic partnership for a group of Nigerian leaders. On paper, this was right up my alley. Trust and authenticity is my gig. I’ve lived the world of strategic partnerships. But after a few minutes listening to their stories, I realized I didn’t have a clue about building trust in their world: 6pm curfews that caused premature closings of universities and businesses; corruption and bribes; lack of tracking and systems. I was not in a position to teach, but only to help in their exploration.

I confessed.

“I’ve never been to Africa. The trust concerns you’ve shared are deeper than anything I’ve ever experienced in my life. I can’t tell you what to do to fix these issues. But like you, I am an experienced business person who cares deeply about trust and knows something it. Like you, I am a parent who longs for a better future for our children. Like you, I want to make Nigeria better. I am humbled to be your guide today in this exploration.

We worked together to build a plan.

6 Things To Do When You Don’t Have a Clue

1. Chill

It’s likely that your panic is not showing as much as you think. Breathe. People will respect that you don’t have all the answers, but they won’t follow a basket case. Show up poised and confident.

2. Trust your gut

You likely know way more than you think. As Michael Hyatt suggests just doing the next right thing. You’re in the position for a reason, trust that it wasn’t an accident. Don’t be afraid to trust your instincts and make some bold moves as needed.

3. Admit what you don’t know and articulate what you do

Chances are they already know what you don’t know. Faking it will just reduce your credibility. Begin with confident humility. Admit what you don’t know, but reassure them with what you do bring to the game.

4. Surround yourself with trusted advisors

Somebody around there knows what they’re doing. And all those somebodies put together have an arsenal of the knowledge you need. Tapping into their expertise creates engagement and gets you out of the gate quickly.

5. Do your homework

Get as smart as you can as fast as you can. Research best practices. Study failures. Dig deep. Nothing beats experience, but if you don’t have much, leverage someone elses.

6. Look the part

This one’s not vital, but a bit like chicken soup, it can’t hurt. If you’re not feeling overwhelmingly confident at least look good. It just might increase your confidence.

6 Things to Do When You Don’t Have a Clue

Perhaps you convinced them you were ready, or maybe someone convinced you. Either way, you’re in a new job or staring at a new project and don’t have the slightest clue where to start. You feel stupid on the inside and you wonder how badly it’s showing on the outside. Everyone’s looking to you for direction. Now what?

A Story of Not Knowing

“I know one thing, that I know nothing”-Socrates

I recently conducted a workshop on trust and strategic partnership for a group of Nigerian leaders. On paper, this was right up my alley. Trust and authenticity is my gig. I’ve lived the world of strategic partnerships. But after a few minutes listening to their stories, I realized I didn’t have a clue about building trust in their world: 6pm curfews that caused premature closings of universities and businesses; corruption and bribes; lack of tracking and systems. I was not in a position to teach, but only to help in their exploration.

I confessed.

“I’ve never been to Africa. The trust concerns you’ve shared are deeper than anything I’ve ever experienced in my life. I can’t tell you what to do to fix these issues. But like you, I am an experienced business person who cares deeply about trust and knows something it. Like you, I am a parent who longs for a better future for our children. Like you, I want to make Nigeria better. I am humbled to be your guide today in this exploration.

We worked together to build a plan.

6 Things To Do When You Don’t Have a Clue

1. Chill

It’s likely that your panic is not showing as much as you think. Breathe. People will respect that you don’t have all the answers, but they won’t follow a basket case. Show up poised and confident.

2. Trust your gut

You likely know way more than you think. As Michael Hyatt suggests just doing the next right thing. You’re in the position for a reason, trust that it wasn’t an accident. Don’t be afraid to trust your instincts and make some bold moves as needed.

3. Admit what you don’t know and articulate what you do

Chances are they already know what you don’t know. Faking it will just reduce your credibility. Begin with confident humility. Admit what you don’t know, but reassure them with what you do bring to the game.

4. Surround yourself with trusted advisors

Somebody around there knows what they’re doing. And all those somebodies put together have an arsenal of the knowledge you need. Tapping into their expertise creates engagement and gets you out of the gate quickly.

5. Do your homework

Get as smart as you can as fast as you can. Research best practices. Study failures. Dig deep. Nothing beats experience, but if you don’t have much, leverage someone elses.

6. Look the part

This one’s not vital, but a bit like chicken soup, it can’t hurt. If you’re not feeling overwhelmingly confident at least look good. It just might increase your confidence.

2 Ways to Instantly Lose Credibility with Your New Team

You’ve got a new job, a new team, or a new project. Credibility is vital, but people are skeptical. Questioning eyes wonder, “who is this guy?” “why him?” “seriously?” Their looks intimidate. And you wonder, “why me?” “What are they thinking?” “yikes, they look pretty smart.” And the downward spiral begins.

Here’s where it gets ugly.

Two credibility-crushing responses to that queasy feeling

1. Talk too much

It’s tempting. It’s common. Don’t do it.

Why you’ll want to…

  • To release nervous energy
    Share the space. They’re nervous too. Get the room talking. It will be more productive and relax everyone.
  • To prove you’re qualified
    No one wants your resume. Show them through your actions. The ones who care most about your background have already have done their homework. Let them ask if they’re curious.
  • To sound smart
    Don’t start with the answers. Trust me, you don’t know them. 

2. Talk too little

Shutting up doesn’t work either.

Why you’ll want to…

  • To be a servant leader
    Your heart’s in the right place. Great start. Servant leaders are confident and inspire confidence. Inspire then with vision.  Share your leadership philosophy. Ask them what they need.
  • So you don’t say something stupid
    Just watch out for #1. Saying nothing sounds stupid too. Ask inspired and provocative questions.
  • You’re just “taking it all in”
    Take it in, but show signs of life. Ask questions to learn more. Take it in with an energetic presence.