A while ago, I was working with one of my supervisors. As we were chatting, he decided to teach me some principles that will help me on my job and in life. In his typical style, Dr. Sorci asked me, “Do you know what the most important thing is in practicing medicine?”

I wasn’t so sure what he was looking for. I said, “Hmm, I’m not so sure. First do no harm?”

Know Your Limits: A Most Important Thing

No, he responded softly.

Know your limits.

Dr. Sorci proceeded to teach me that in medicine, even though as physicians we are expected to do great work, no one is expected to know everything. In fact, when a doctor is in practice, they get to determine the scope of their practice based on their skill set and comfort. The most important thing as a doctor then is to “know your limits.” Know when a patient’s illness is something you can handle by yourself and know when it is out of your scope so that you can immediately call for help or refer the patient to a specialist more knowledgeable in the disease process than you.

Later, as I reflected on what Dr. Sorci taught me. I realized that the truth doesn’t only apply to medicine. It applies to business and organizational life and to every aspect of life.

Every good organization encourages it’s employees to be innovative and creative. Innovation and creativity determine┬áthe success of most companies today because the world is changing rapidly.

To be effective with innovation and creativity, every team member needs to know his or her limits. Why? If team members don’t know their limits, innovation and creativity can become a wastefully prohibitive proposition for any company. Team members need to be able to know what their limits are so that they too can know when to call for help.

The same is true with the freedom to work without supervision. We all know that employees do better when they are granted more freedoms to do their work independently without micromanagement from supervisors. When team members don’t display a robust knowledge of their boundaries–the limits of their knowledge, when leaving them to work alone means they venture into wasteful territory because of a lack of understanding of their limits, it makes it difficult for managers to sit back and give them the kind of freedom they would love to have with their work.

I think we all need to know our limits in every arena of life.