Thursday, August 05, 2021

Leaders: Don't Say, "Tell Me Why I'm Wrong"


Some well-meaning leaders have tried to solicit dissenting views from their team members by saying, "Tell me why I'm wrong."  They invite team members to explain why the proposed course of action is not advisable or feasible.  However, I think leaders are asking the wrong question here.  Inviting people to openly oppose you doesn't necessarily create the type of constructive dialogue and debate you envision.  People may have questions or concerns about a proposal, but they might not be ready to stand in direct opposition to the boss.  Alternatively, they may not be sure if the recommended course of action is appropriate.  They may simply have some questions about key assumptions, beliefs, or data.   Ironically, asking people to oppose you openly may not create a safe environment for discussion at all; it may discourage team members from speaking up. 

What should leaders ask instead?  Here are a few alternatives:

  • What questions do you have about this proposal?
  • What assumptions do you think might need further testing and validation?
  • How might this plan go off track?
  • What obstacles might we face if we try to implement this plan?
  • Here's how I see this scenario unfolding.  What am I missing?
Asking these types of questions can create a productive conversation, and even encourage dissent, without asking someone to stand on an island in direct contradiction to the boss.  

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