Byron's Babbles

Tell Me Why I Am Wrong!

Screen Shot 2017-05-27 at 7.35.32 AMIn his great book, A More Beautiful Question: The Power of Inquiry to Spark Breakthrough Ideas, Warren Berger discussed the idea that dissonance can be more valuable to leaders and organizations than resonance. We always think about jumping straight to buy-in or consensus, but the idea of having team members push back has tremendous value. I have always believed we should question the views of those with whom we disagree. We need to do this however with yet an open, curious mind. Berger suggested we ask things like: Why might they see the issue this way? Why do I see it differently? What assumptions are we each operating under?AMBQ-Hardcover-Paperback_edited-1-768x634

I have always had two trade-mark questions that I like to ask when making decisions or trying to design new ways of doing things. These two questions are:

  1. Tell/convince me: Why am I wrong?
  2. Can you please talk me out of this?

These two questions have really served me well over the years. It is amazing how many great ideas I have gotten to improve the project or question I am grappling with at the time of asking these questions. The beautiful thing about these questions is that sometimes I am wrong, but many times I get just the right ideas to make something great or keep me from being wrong.

An example of this is a decision I just made official yesterday. As you know we have a program I started two years ago called the Focused Leader Academy (FLA). At its founding we decided to have 15-18 participants selected each year by an application and interview process. This would give us approximately 10% of our teaching staff going through this intensive leadership training each year. We just completed our second cohort and are ready to start Cohort #3. Well, we had 34 applicants, which is the most ever. Long story short, because of the many different complexities of our school, I had the wild and crazy thought of, “Why not accept all 34 candidates and have that many more great leaders developed in our school?” As you can imagine, there are many implications to making a decision like this. Not the least of which are: financial, keeping the experience special, logistics, group dynamics, and managing a group this size.

So, I literally started making phone calls to some of my most trusted people and former participants of the group and asked three things:

  1. What if we accepted 34 participants into Cohort #3 of FLA?
  2. Why would it be wrong to accept all 34 into Cohort #3 of FLA?
  3. Please talk me out of accepting all 34 into Cohort #3 of FLA?

I might add that I also randomly selected some of the applicants and asked the same three questions. I thought is was important to hear the feedback from those that would be most affected by my decision.

Here’s the deal: yesterday I sent congratulatory notes to all 34 and made Cohort #3 of FLA the largest of our history. Why? Because no-one convinced me it was the wrong idea. Most importantly, however, I got all kinds of great ideas on how to make it great with 34 participants. And… even more importantly, I got great advice on how not to let the experience flop with 34 participants. And… from my financial team we already have it figured out how to make it work from a financial standpoint.

I found it interesting that I had one group that was somewhat against at first and one individual that was adamantly against, but after long conversations with both they both came to the conclusion, and I quote, “You don’t have a choice; taking all 34 is the right decision.” Keep in mind these were just conversations sharing versions of ideas. It is about me hearing negative feedback and ideas, not me trying to convince. When entering uncharted waters, I (we all) need my assumptions challenged.

Here is one of my favorite excerpts from Berger’s awesome book that reinforces this idea of dissonance:

“In sharing early versions of an idea with the world at large, one is likely to receive negative feedback—which some people interpret as evidence of a failure. But that’s not necessarily true, says Harvard’s Paul Bottino, who points out that when it comes to feedback, “dissonance can actually be more valuable than resonance.” As people push back on your idea, it can be a good indication that you’re entering uncharted, potentially important territory—because you’re more likely to get negative feedback (“That could never work!”) on ideas that challenge common assumptions. “Dissonance is the most misunderstood kind of feedback,” Bottino says. “We really should welcome it and learn to make the most of it.” ~ Warren Berger in A More Beautiful Question

I love Merriam-Webster’s definition of dissonance: “lack of agreement – the dissonance between the truth and what people want to believe.” When I ask team members to tell me why I am wrong, I really want to know. I usually want to really believe something will work or be a great idea, but I need to know the truth about roadblocks and potential pit-falls.

Finally, I do not want you to leave this post thinking I am suggesting throwing out the important of resonance. Nothing could be farther from the truth.  Resonance is the positive emotional affect of leadership. Those who are led by resonate leaders are in harmony with the leader’s emotions. Great leaders are effective because they create resonance.  Resonance comes from the Latin word resonare, to resound. Effective leaders are attuned to other people’s feelings and move them in a positive emotional direction. They speak authentically about their own values, direction and priorities and resonate with the emotions of surrounding people. Under the guidance of an effective leader, people feel a mutual comfort level. Resonance comes naturally to people with a high degree of emotional intelligence (self-awareness, self-management, social awareness and relationship management) but involves also intellectual aspects.

Remember, we owe it to ourselves and our organizations, as resonant leaders, to model and allow for dissonance when incorporating Berger’s framework of asking:

  • Why?
  • What if?
  • How?

Asking beautiful questions will enable us to lead beautiful organizations!

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: