MLP 084: Why You Should Stop Being A Know-It-All Leader with Karmen Masson

Leaders are always expected to be the most knowledgeable people in any given organization. 

This creates a burden of expectation that cause many managers to overstep their level of expertise.  Certified Executive Coach Karmen Masson steps in to help us rectify these pitfalls with tips on how to avoid the trap of titles.

In episode #084 of the Meeting Leadership Podcast, we cover:

  • Why leadership is about more than expertise and knowledge
  • The downfall of prejudging before gathering information
  • Dealing with the burden of expectations
  • Using a learner’s mindset instead of a judger’s mindset
  • Listening beyond the words and asking powerful questions

Karmen Masson

Karmen Masson - Meeting Leadership Podcast - Effective Meetings

Karmen Masson is a Certified Executive Coach and leadership consultant. Her first career was as a lawyer, working in private and then in government practice where she took on senior management and executive roles. She has led large teams across diverse regions, and has been an active leader in the broader community, teaching law, facilitating leadership skill-development programs, and founding and developing a successful charitable organization. Her professional and leadership experience, combined with her passion for supporting and championing others, makes her the ideal coach for leaders who work in demanding environments, have difficult issues, and want to drive change and meaningful results.     

You Can get in touch with Karmen at http://karmenmasson.com/

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00:00 – Show Opening

Are you a professional who wants to become a more effective leader? Then get ready for daily tips from the coach, with the experience and inspiration to help you succeed in any leadership situation. Your listening to the Meeting Leadership podcast with Gordon Sheppard.

00:27 – Podcast content starts here!

Gordon Sheppard: Welcome to another episode of the Meeting Leadership podcast. My name is Gordon Sheppherd and I just want to say honestly, thank you so much for being here. Thanks for choosing the Meeting Leadership podcast as a place that you trust to build your leadership skills, to learn how to run great meetings because you know if you do that, you’re going to actually have an impact on your team, on your entire organization, and you can connect the dots and see how your meetings flow through to helping you serve your customers and your community at the highest possible level.

00:58 – Why should I stop being a know-it-all leader?

Gordon Sheppard: It is really great to have you here and take a moment to consider this. Have you ever been in a leadership situation where you gave an answer even though you didn’t have all the information but you felt like you had to because you’re the one with the title, you’re the one who sort of at the front of the room, that kind of thing. Well, if that’s the case and you sort of have a bit of humility around the fact that you’d like to learn maybe a different way to do things, you’re going to get a lot from today’s episode because today the show is called Why You Should Stop Being A Know It All Leader, and to help us explore this valuable topic, we are bringing in an expert. Her name is Karmen Masson.

01:26 – Welcome, Karmen Masson!

Gordon Sheppard: Now Karmen is a professional coach. She helps professionals across industries to get really to the top of their game. She’s also had a great legal career and so many more experiences in leadership roles and she started a nonprofit called suit yourself and that’s the type of nonprofit where people that maybe don’t have the means are able to go in there, get a business suit, and actually then go be successful in an interview or maybe start their first job. This is the kind of work that she does. This is the kind of person that she is and I’m not going to keep you back any longer. Here’s the wonderful interview with Karmen Masson.

Gordon Sheppard: Karmen Masson, welcome to the show. It is great to have you here.

Karmen Masson: Thank you, Gord.

Gordon Sheppard: It was so fun to do the homework on learning about all the different phases of your adult career time, how many different ways you’ve given back, not only professionally but in the nonprofit world as well. I know I’m thrilled to have you here.

02:26 – Introductions – Karmen’s back story

Gordon Sheppard: When you introduce yourself to people, what do you want them to know?

Karmen Masson: I do want them to know that I have a back story. I started out my career as a professional, as a lawyer, and it was a long rewarding and productive career, but things changed over time and I had a lot of learnings along the way that had brought me to where I am now.

Gordon Sheppard: Learnings along the way. At 52 myself, I wish I couldn’t take three hours of your time and tell you all the sort of wounds and learnings and good things that go along with it. Funny that combo works really well into what you’re doing now in the coaching area and that’s why we’ve got you on today because we’re going to be talking about why you should stop being a know it all leader.

03:17 – Karmen’s take – leadership is about more than expertise and knowledge

Gordon Sheppard: Now this is a great topic. What’s the first thing that you want people to know about it?

Karmen Masson: I really, really want people to know, first of all that I get it. So many of us come into these leadership roles thinking that, wow, we come in with an expertise or a knowledge base and all these great skills and training that we’ve acquired over years of experience and education, and then when we get into leadership, things change a little bit and having all of that technical expertise and substantive knowledge, while it’s extremely helpful and useful at times, leadership is about a lot more than that expertise and knowledge.

04:00 – The trap of titles

Gordon Sheppard: Well, I think a lot of people often get trapped in a title. Would you agree with that?

Karmen Masson: I’ve been there quite a few times, Gord.

Gordon Sheppard: It is one of those things where you know you get that fancy title. I’ve actually been there myself, when I was running a team of nine people and I got that title early on. Honestly, it went straight to my head and I didn’t have that luxury of this kind of interaction say with a coach to get that self reflection that you’re able to give people because this kind of thing when you’re a know it all, when you’re in that leadership role and you think you have to have the answers, that can actually be harmful.

Karmen Masson: Absolutely. We start making assumptions based on things that we think we already know or that we think that we should know and because of that, those assumptions that we make, we end up making decisions and often prejudging before we have really useful good information that we should be getting from the folks, that teams, that we’re working with.

04:32 – Prejudging without all the information

Gordon Sheppard: Well, and isn’t it ironic that you would say prejudging given your legal background and isn’t that really so much what happens in the legal profession? You even if you don’t know, you kind of seem like you do know. Has that been your experience?

05:10 – The burden of expectations

Karmen Masson: Absolutely. It’s an expectation that when you walk into a meeting with a client or you walk into a courtroom, you know your stuff. That’s what you’re hired for. That’s what you get paid for and that’s what the expectation is and it’s a heavy burden that not only lawyers, but so many professionals and experts in all sorts of fields, really carry around with them. It’s a heavy weight thinking that you need to know it all well.

05:43 – Using a learner’s mindset versus a judger’s mindset

Gordon Sheppard: Certainly we can understand the basic premise that you’ve laid down. What can leaders do about it from your perspective?

Karmen Masson: The beginning point that I would suggest is starting with adopting what I, and many others, have termed as a learners mindset and that really Gord, is about starting to think about what is it that we don’t know and being comfortable and okay with not knowing all of the answers and all of the solutions and all of the steps that it’s going to take us to be successful and achieve the results that we really want.

07:17 – An example of the learner’s mindset in action

Karmen Masson: If I compare that learner’s mindset with the typical mindset that many of us have come into leadership knowing and thinking that there was an expectation of which I would call more a judger’s mindset.

Gordon Sheppard: Well and this really speaks to what I’m going to call 21st century leadership. This is a time when female leadership is just starting to come into its own and I say female and male sort of regrettably, because I wish it was 500 years from now and we just were in like a Star Trek episode where everybody got along, but this learner’s mindset piece that you’re talking about really is something where in the 21st century we’re seeing it now from influence from female leaders. I saw a male comedian who used to be sort of this real macho guy, but now he’s able to sort of admit that that wasn’t the right approach for all the frustration or anger that he used to get out from his perspective. I think this learner’s mindset is something that’s really, really valuable.

Gordon Sheppard: How can somebody practice it in a leadership moment? Can you give me an example?

Karmen Masson: One example that I can think of, which was a turning point in my leadership experience was I was faced with a challenge of some really heavy fiscal restraints, and I was told I need to have a plan for a major cutback within literally hours and in a gender’s type mindset, I would have the answers. I would already know what the plan is or I would take moments to figure it out and present my plan and to start directing people to get the job done.

Karmen Masson: Now compare that with a learner’s mindset and saying number one, it’s okay not to know what the answer or the best move is to deal with this challenge and then saying, how can I learn more and questioning and being curious about this uncomfortable place of unknown and then thinking, okay, how can I learn more? Who can I tap into to help me learn more about this? And that’s where that linkage from, Hey, it’s just me all alone trying to solve this problem and be a great leader; to, hey, who can I connect with on my team? Who are the folks that can help me and support me? But also, what to contribute to the success of our organization?

09:17 – Listening beyond words and understanding your colleague’s challenges

Karmen Masson: So it’s that starting with yourself, being okay with things, and then being curious and asking, how can I learn more about the issues, the challenges and the steps and the plan? How this will actually unroll.

Gordon Sheppard: Hearing your experience in the trenches and not even knowing exactly what the outcome from that moment was, it sounds like when yo