Are You a Wisdom Poser?

“If you do this, you’ll definitely increase revenue,” Mark said. Mark was a brash young consultant out to make a name for himself on his first consulting gig since graduating with an MBA. The client, Paula, was an experienced sales manager. She patiently listened to Mark’s presentation filled with consultant-speak and tired cliches. It was the “definitely increase revenue” claim that got her to chime in.

“Increasing revenue is always a great thing. Tell me, Mark, where have you done this before?” Paula asked.

“Well, our firm has done this with a lot of clients.”

“That may be true, but you’re pitching me on work that you specifically would be doing for us. I’m curious as to where you’ve specifically succeeded with a project like this and your experience with increasing revenue. Where have you done this before?”

Mark stammered for an answer. “I would have a team working with me that has the experience to deliver.”

“Mark, I’ve been around the block a lot and can tell when someone isn’t being up-front with me. You’ve never done a project like this before, have you?”

“Well, yeah; when working on my MBA we did a case study on this. I’m confident I can do the work and deliver results for you, Paula.”

Paula smiled politely. “Very good, Mark; let me think about it, OK?”

“Certainly. Can I call you next week?” Mark asked.

“I’ll be out, but I’ll give you a ring if we decide to pursue further. Thanks, Mark.”

Paula got up from her chair, shook hands with Mark and led him out of the office.

“Sheesh, what a poser,” Paula thought as she walked back to her desk, knowing she would not be calling Mark back.

To understand a wisdom poser, we need to first understand a wisdom steward. A wisdom steward is balanced in how they seek and share wisdom. They humbly and genuinely seek wisdom to help make sensible decisions. At the same time, a wisdom steward transparently and candidly shares wisdom with others to help them make sensible decisions. The seeker and sharer roles are equally respected and practiced by the wisdom steward with the goal of embracing success for both themselves and others.

Now, on to the wisdom poser. The wisdom poser isn’t concerned about embracing success. The poser is concerned more with impressing others. A poser guardedly seeks wisdom without exposing how much they don’t know about a topic. The poser tries to understand enough to dazzle others with their command of the subject matter. Think of this analogy; I can read about a perfect golf swing all day, but I have to put what I’ve learned into practice and hit the links. The poser would profess to be a great golfer because they read about it, not because they have the scorecards to prove it. The poser shares what they think is wisdom, but it’s baseless because there’s no experience to back it up. So, a wisdom poser guardedly seeks without exposing how much they don’t know, and aggressively shares information, trying to pass it off as wisdom.

Are you a wisdom poser? Ask yourself these questions:

  • Do you find it difficult to admit you’re wrong about something?
  • Do you feel the need to contribute even if a topic is unfamiliar to you?
  • Do you tend to quote more from what you’ve read versus what you’ve experienced?
  • Are you cautious about seeking wisdom out of fear that someone might find out how much you don’t know?
  • Do you look for profound things to say around people who have influence over your career?
  • Do you try to impress people who have influence over your career by agreeing with that they say?

Wisdom posers guardedly seek wisdom without exposing themselves and aggressively share information passed as wisdom. If this is you, now is the time to make the move from wisdom poser to wisdom steward.

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