No, You Don’t Have to Know It All!

 In I Wish I'd Known, Leadership

Each month in 2023, I feature one of my top-ten “Things I Wish I’d Known” when I first started as a manager and leader years ago. This article is my second: No, You Don’t Have to Know It All!

“Do I look dumb?”

This question hung like a cloud over my head years ago when I was a new manager. You wouldn’t believe all the steps — and missteps — I took to appear as though I knew it all.

Like the time I found out one of my employees had gone to visit a client to give a progress update. Immediately I thought, “How could she have gone without me — and why didn’t she tell me?!” And then, “How will it look to the client if I’m not there?”

I’ll bet you can predict what happened next. I foolishly hopped into my car and drove to the client’s office. It was a surprise for my employee — and for the client.

When I looked back on it later, I had an unsettling realization. My unspoken message to the employee was, “You can’t do this by yourself.” And worse, “I can’t trust you.” But I should have trusted her. She was smart, competent, and perfectly able to update the client on the project.

Sure enough, she sensed my lack of trust and didn’t stay with the company much longer. And I lost one of my best employees.

The day she left, I learned an important lesson: You don’t always have to know it all. You don’t always have to do it all. And you don’t always have be in charge of every little detail.

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My free worksheet features this month’s theme, “No, You Don’t Have to Know It All.”

The higher you climb the leadership ladder, the less hands-on you get to be. And the less you need to — or can — know everything.

To be a great manager or leader, you have to let go. That can be hard! Especially if you love doing the work you’ve handed off to the people you’ve hired to do it.

Power Challenge 1: Decide What You DO Need to Know — and What You DON’T

You don’t need to know everything … but you still need to know some things. It can be a delicate balance! Be intentional and recognize which things go into which bucket.

To start, take a look at the list below. For each category, consider what you need to know.

Your company’s operations, products and services:

How deeply do you need to understand the intricacies of new products or services? How much detail do you need about standard operating procedures? How often do you need to review company financials or product line performance?

Are there ways for you to stay in the loop but not get stuck in the weeds? Could daily, weekly, monthly or quarterly status updates and performance reports give you the right information?

And, for anything you’re not doing, do you know who IS doing it? Where does the buck stop for that particular role, task or item?

Your industry:

Industries rarely stand still. Some move faster than others, but new studies and reports are always being released. New best practices are put into place. Technologies evolve.

You probably receive invitations to attend industry lunches, webinars and conferences. As if that weren’t enough, thanks to the Internet, social media and a deluge of email newsletters, you could spend all day every day learning more about your industry!

But what should you read — and how much time should you spend?

You decide what you should read and how much is enough. Anything beyond is a bonus. Experiment by setting a specific amount of time — for example, one hour per week or three hours per month. Create a recurring “appointment” on your calendar. I recommend choosing a day and time that tends to be slower, such as a Friday afternoon.

You can also ask your company’s subject matter experts to brief you periodically (for example, once per quarter) on industry trends. But again, be sure to set an appointment on your calendar!

Power Thought:

Time is a finite resource. Spend yours with intention.

Management and leadership:

Even experienced leaders have opportunities to become better leaders. If you’re a new manager, chances are you have even more opportunities. Make work easier for you (and your staff) by getting some training!

Some skills are much better to learn via training than trial and error. Here are a few skills I wish I’d learned through structured training or coaching earlier in my leadership days:

  • Effective delegation
  • Conflict resolution
  • Motivating and inspiring your team
  • Modeling accountability
  • Hiring and firing
  • Strategy and business development

Once you determine what you need to know in each of these areas, you can develop efficient strategies and processes to stay on top of them.

And the things you don’t need to know? Remind yourself to let ‘em go!

Power Challenge 2: Trust Your Staff

One of the most impactful things you can do as a leader is to hire the right people for the right roles — and for the right reasons. Hire for competence, experience and fit. Don’t hire as a favor to your neighbor whose daughter needs a job.

With the right team in place, now delegate, delegate, delegate! You’ve hired these people for a reason: to free up your time to do what you do best. To focus on the big picture.

Resist the temptation to micromanage. Undoubtedly you know more than they do about your company, products and services —  but that only lasts until they get up to speed. And they will!

Be patient as they learn the ropes. Think of mistakes as opportunities to learn.

Power Quote:

“Quality effective leaders have the confidence to trust others to try, succeed, and sometimes to fail.” – Simon Sinek

Last but certainly not least, trust yourself.  Manage your feelings about looking “out of touch,” being “dumb” or wondering why anyone would follow your leadership.

Look in the mirror and tell yourself: “You’ve got this!” You’re in a managerial or leadership role because someone believed in you. Someone knew you’d be capable of managing and leading others.

Now that you’re in that role, make sure that you do too.

Related: Why Believing in Yourself Is More Important Than You Think

You Don’t Have to Know — or Do — It All

Imagine you’re a chef in a restaurant. You make an out-of-this-world chicken parmesan. Outstanding spaghetti and meatballs. Desserts that sell out every night! The place becomes so popular you decide to open a second location. Then a third.

But you can’t be the chef in three places. It’s not humanly possible!

And so, you hire. More chefs. Someone to keep the books. Another person to market your restaurants. All people you trust. The more you grow, the more you learn to delegate. And by freeing up time focused on operational tasks, guess what? You now have the time and energy to create more masterpiece recipes as your business thrives and continues to grow.

Do you completely walk away from the daily operations of your restaurants and hope for the best? No! But your perspective shifts to the bigger picture.

You figure out what you need to know — and what you don’t. You rely on the people you’ve hired.

Your primary responsibility as a manager or leader is to help your company thrive and grow. That means putting the right people in the right places to handle the tasks you no longer have time to do. So …

Hire right.


Manage your self-doubts.


Learn from my early leadership experiences: You don’t have to know it all. You don’t have to do it all. Now, how will you put this advice into practice?

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Carla inspires leaders and team members — and provides real-world tips to become the best version of themselves that they can be. Contact her today.


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