From Zero To Hero – You Always Add Value

I had dinner with a friend and her son recently. He was telling me about the time he’d left university and joined a grad programme, the first placement of which involved liaising with the army.

There he was, a fresh-faced 21 year old, sitting at the table with literally battle-hardened senior personnel.

At one point during a discussion he’d voiced his opinion, which was met with the curt response, “You’ve never been to Afghanistan or fired a gun – what do you know?” (Said in a way that made it clear that was a rhetorical question.)

He said it shut him up double quick and it was a long time before he spoke up in a meeting again. No wonder really. He’d basically been told: you add zero value here.

But that’s never true.

Even when you think you know nothing, you can add something.

As I said to this young man – it’s precisely because he hadn’t been to Afghanistan or held a gun that he could see the situation in a way they couldn’t. His perspective wasn’t tainted by that knowledge.

Now, I appreciate, when you’re 21 and a senior person has just slapped you down, you’re not going to pipe up and say, “Actually, it’s my lack of experience that’s allowing me to see what you can’t.” (Though I’d have loved him to sass the top brass by doing so.)

But if you’re a little older, with a few years’ career experience under your belt, you definitely should.

For instance, you may find yourself in a meeting thinking, “Everyone around the table has 100% more technical knowledge than I do – I’ll keep my mouth shut so I don’t show myself up.” However, in doing so, you may make people wonder why the heck you’re there in the first place if you’ve nothing to offer…which isn’t what you’d intended and a terrible outcome for your personal brand.

Back to my first point though: even if you know zero about a subject, you still have something to add – the fact that you know zero.

Pipe up

So why not say:

“Looking at this with a non-technical perspective, what occurs to me is…”

Or how about, “Bringing my non-technical experience to the table, I wanted to add…”

Or even, “I’ve listened to your discussions and although I can’t contribute to those from a technical point of view, what I can add is…”

Confidence boost

Even if you don’t pipe up, just knowing that there is value is knowing nothing can go a long way to boost your confidence in situations where you initially feel you have nothing to add

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6 responses to “From Zero To Hero – You Always Add Value”

  1. Denis Kaye says:

    Really innovative thinking comes from lateral thinking about what is possible rather than looking through the rear view mirror of past experience. It is all too easy to confuse 40 years’ experience with one year’s experience 40 times!

  2. Lee West says:

    Literally had this situation arise today, room full of engineers desperately trying to find a technical solution to the problem when I piped up with a non technical explanation that made more sense and was accepted as a route forward.

    I myself used the phrase ‘looking at this from a non technical point of view’ all without actually acknowledging that I had nothing to contribute from a technical perspective full stop…win win!

  3. Allison Edgeler says:

    I have just recently become a GP practice business manager after 21 years in financial services. I know nothing about the NHS, nothing about GP practices but do know about people, service, quality and money. I’ve been amazed at how my lack of knowledge can improve things!!

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