Byron's Babbles

No One Bothered To Explain

“No one bothered to explain anything to her so she was not comfortable asking any questions.” Y.T. said this while working a job in the great novel (where the term “metaverse” was coined), Snow Crash, by Neal Stephenson. For some reason this statement really jumped out at me. I think it hit me so hard because it is true – if we’ve not been given any explanation, the “why,” or made to feel like we need to be in the “know,” we probably won’t be comfortable asking questions. This is true in work and organizational settings as well as in educational settings. Explanation forms a bridge between telling and revealing knowledge involving narration and description.

Using explanation, we make meaning of content, processes, and procedures. In other words, complex things should be simplified. Explanations also give us clarity. When there’s clarity, it’s easier to communicate and move forward as a team. Y.T.’s comment in Snow Crash reminded me that the short amount of time it takes to explain and shed some light on the “why,”especially when introducing a new initiative, provides the clarity, unity, and motivation necessary for a productive and fully-engaged culture.

Then, yesterday while facilitating a leadership development gathering, I was reminded that the comfort that Y.T. was looking for to ask questions was also dependent on the relationships built with others in the organization and team. We know that students whose teachers have built relationships with have higher levels of engagement and achievement. Why? The students are more comfortable asking questions.

Do you have, or have you ever had, a boss you weren’t comfortable asking questions of? Awful, right? This could show a lack of relationship. I had a teacher tell me a couple of weeks ago that she wished her principal knew her better. I reminded her that this was a two way street and she needed to help build that relationship. As a former principal I pointed out that her principal had an entire building of people to build relationships with. But, the bottom-line is that it is a leaders responsibility to build relationships and open the lines of communication.

As leaders we need to make sure we are comfortable asking questions like: How’s life?; Are you clear about your role and responsibilities?; What would you like to learn about?; or, What do you think would improve…? Think about how liberating being asked these questions could be. Only liberating, however, if you really mean them and want to truly act on them.


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