Friday, January 18, 2013

the power of ignorance

Ignorance is defined in the dictionary as having a lack of knowledge, education, or awareness.  If that is the case, then I was the epitome of ignorance at a meeting I recently led...and came out the better for it.  Yesterday I began my role as Chair of the Board for Austin ECHO (Ending Community Homelessness Coalition).  I have served on the Board for about 18 months (we are a newly formed 501c3 in town) and I accepted a position on the Board because I have a heart and passion for serving the homeless.  Little did I know that I would be asked to be vice-chair and then assume the role of Chair 18 months later.  As I ran the meeting yesterday, listening to those on the Board who have been involved in this issue for years...who are connected to city politicians...who live in and understand the pulse of Austin...I quickly realized (as I have known for a while) that they all knew more than I did.  So what else could I do but shut up and listen...and as Chair of the Board keep everyone on track as much as possible.  I gotta tell you - the meeting went really well.  We dialogued...we learned...we made decisions...we moved the organization forward...we walked out with a plan for action.  I felt really good about the meeting.

Fast forward several hours to a faculty meeting of the College of Business which I also was leading.  The first topic was about teaching, practicing, and assessing skills to prepare our students for the workplace.  I know a lot about this subject - I read about it, I do it in my classroom, I talk with others about fact, I'm pretty good at it.  The meeting was a disaster!  And you know why?  Because I believed I was an expert and talked too much.  I truly believe that the meeting would have gone better if I would have been more ignorant of the subject matter.

So what did I learn?  I'm not yet convinced that ignorance is bliss, but I am convinced that the less I talk and the more I allow others to talk so I can learn from them is a good thing - especially when running meetings.  I think it was the Apostle Paul who wrote something about how knowledge puffs up - and love builds up.  So I am going to continue to learn (one of my natural ways of being) and maybe even become an expert in some fields (especially ending homelessness). And when I become the expert, I will continue to act as if I am ignorant, allowing others to bring their knowledge to the table.  When that happens, I think I will be happier...I think others will be happier...and I think (no, I know) that more will get accomplished for the greater good.


gmoore said...

Love the cause - how can I help....

Don Christian said...

gmoore - thinking of you the other day...need to get together and see what our brains can come up with. Thanks for the read!