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The Knowledge trap is holding UK businesses back! … by Paul McGlone

Do you feel that you or your business knows what to do and how to do it?

In fact, if you could take a test you would probably get a ‘how to do it’ A+.   

Most business leaders are proud of their business and team, they have not got to their position without knowing what to do and how to do it, they have built expert knowledge from years of experience, training, mentoring or applying their instincts – BUT even when awarded their “how to do it” A+ they recognise the business could be getting more sales, it could be more efficient, making less mistakes, it could be more profitable, even more fun…

Our knowledge and experience is really valuable, but evidently even if you get an A+ it is not enough!

We often boast and highlight how knowledgeable and experienced our staff are.  We do it when selling, we do it when recruiting, it is evident throughout many businesses.  I often hear about how well qualified and experienced a new recruit is.  They explain to me that this new person knows how to do their job to an incredible standard, they know how to close sales, how to run a business, how to deliver great customer experience…they place high value on this knowledge when recruiting and promoting. 

It is not surprising that many are drawn into the trap of thinking about their value based on such knowledge, especially as having knowledge feels good, gives us confidence, and can elevate us above our peers.

The focus on knowledge is a trap because success is not about knowing HOW to do it.  It is about HOW WELL it is done!

If we think about it we already know this.  For example, knowing how to play football does not make you a professional or successful player!  You can know every rule, every technique, every trick, but none of that knowledge will make you successful if you find yourself competing against a professional player.  Professionals recognise that HOW to play is a critical foundation, but success is about HOW WELL you can do it.

We all need to decide just HOW WELL do we actually want to play!  We need and want to be really really good at what we do, after all our business is not a kick about in the garden with the kids, or a social game in the park with friends…it is our livelihood, and we are competing with professionals.

Professional athletes and sportspeople have coaches to help them do everything better, so it should come as no surprise that serious business leaders work with coaches too.  They know that they are already talented business people, they are knowledgeable, they have experience – They have the confidence to engage a coach so that they get even stronger and more successful.

The successful business leaders that I work with no longer recruit, promote or manage based on knowledge alone, they also centre their values and focus on ability, and their teams do too.

The first stage of growing from focussing on the ‘how to do it’ to the ‘how well do we do it’ is to acknowledge that you or your team are normally not underperforming by choice!  I often come across a person who is ‘busy’, they are working really really hard, going the extra mile, has attended every course, has buckets of experience, and doing their very best to meet very clear targets so they can pay their mortgage, but somehow they are not winning – they know how to do it, they want to do it, they are trying to do it.  Wanting with all your heart to win the football world cup is not enough if you are not good enough at football.

The second fundamental to revisit is that performance measurements or KPIs intended to measure goals and targets are not enough to help yourself and your team do things better.  Measuring that you are still not even in the right league is not going to make you a better player.

It is very common to conclude that because someone is trying hard, and management controls are in place, we are doing the best we can.   When we feel that we can no longer change or affect something we inevitably blame others and accept circumstances.  We blame a weak market, we blame the season, our price, or product/service, competitors behaviour…we find ourselves frustrated, disappointed, and we accept we did what we can – AND we get no closer to winning that World Cup. 

If it is not your fault, as the “market has changed”, “we lost on price”, or you or your team say things like “I know how to do it”, “I have been doing this all my life” – this is a sign that there is focus and confidence in the ‘how’, but not on the ‘how well’ – so you would benefit from engaging a professional coach.

I coach business leaders and their teams, and just like a sports coach, I help them to perform at their best.  This may mean we need to strengthen or refresh some ‘knowledge’, but my coaching work is really all about helping people, and business leaders ‘do it well’.

If you want to do things even better select a coach who can understand your ‘sport’, if you are in sales make sure your coach knows how to coach sales, if you run or lead a business make sure the coach knows how to help you become an even better leader.

If you would like to know more or would like help to be more successful please feel free to get in touch, I may be the right coach for you, or I can direct you to someone who is.  If you decide to try and succeed without a coach give some thought to how you will avoid the knowledge trap.

Paul McGlone,  Director, GSS.


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