In an organizational setting, when little issues arise, I try to consider the bigger issue at stake. Not everything has a bigger context worth considering, but strategic leaders consistently consider if there is one.
For example, if a staff member makes an awkward or unusually negative comment during a meeting, I try to consider the bigger issue. Did he or she simply make a random remark, was the comment limited to the meeting, or is there something unspoken going on that could point to a bigger issue in the person’s life or the organization? If I can’t immediately discern, I’ll most likely question this after the meeting.
If I receive criticism from someone I trust, is it limited to the matter being criticized, or is there a bigger, unspoken issue of concern? I’ll always try to discern what isn’t clear, but ask if I need more clarity.
As a leader, I have learned that I don’t always get the full story. As much as I try to lead around that fact, some people are afraid of hurting my feelings, may be intimidated by my position, or just fearful of speaking up with their true feelings.
I discipline myself to always consider bigger issue questions such as:
- What’s the real problem?
- What’s really at stake?
- Who is really affected by this decision?
- What’s the real potential outcome?
- How much is this really costing?
I know as a leader that what I don’t know may be the real issue. Discovering it soon enough avoids potential greater damage in the organization.
What other question should we be asking?