I’m not a fan of watching soap operas. One day when I was changing channels to watch a program on CNBC, my attention was caught by a snap-shot of a scene in Star Plus, where a girl was asking questions to her grandma. I started watching this Indian soap opera called Veera. What got me interested in this soap opera was the girl’s never-ending quest to learn, to challenge, to explore, to question and not to take things for granted.
If you observe a child, you will notice that a child never stops to ask questions. Most questions asked by a child arise from curiosity and to determine the Why? However, as we grow older, we stop asking relevant questions. We take things for granted and are happy to accept the beliefs, the processes, the archaic methods.
When people ask me what is Coaching, I explain that a Coach facilitates listening in an adult environment by asking relevant and contextual questions. As your coach, I create an environment of evoking you to explore your maximum potential be it in tactical – sales, communication or leadership or transformational coaching.
How many times have you faced situations in your organization or in a community voluntary service, where you observe situations of conformity just to be seen in the group, despite situations which defy logic? A person who asks questions, despite being logical and rational is often seen as rocking the boat.
Take the case of Community Service. Community service is important because it gives people a sense of belonging and being helpful to others. However, many times in an NGO or in voluntary service organizations, you will observe that people have failed to ask:
- Why have we come together?
- What is the common purpose?
- How can the community or those who claim to lead it engage others in what they are passionate about?
- What are your different perspectives and interests?
- How well do you know the group?
- Is each one being utilized for what they feel worthy of ?
The meetings get wound up in processes and never-ending complicated procedures. The above is true within many organizations as well.
In many organizations, several policies and procedures are carried out because they have just existed. No one has dared to question them or find out if they serve the purpose. Even if someone has bothered to question them, many times they give up because it affects their career path within the organization.
An American academic study into organizational silence found that 85 percent of executives had issues or concerns at work that they had never articulated. The chief reason was fear of retribution.
More often than not, silence results not only from fear or discomfort associated with standing out like a sore thumb but also from futility. We see this within organizations among the senior management, in the political arena, in the non-profit world and in day-to-day matters of life be it child abuse, violence against women and other social matters.
What is this indifference or turning a blind eye called?
Willful Blindness is a dangerous panacea that spreads and harms not only yourself but the organization you possibly lead or the team you manage.
In her book, Margaret Heffernan argues that the biggest threats and dangers we face are the ones we don’t see – not because they’re secret or invisible, but because we’re willfully blind. She examines the phenomenon and traces its imprint in our private and working lives, and within governments and organizations, and asks: What makes us prefer ignorance? What are we so afraid of? Why do some people see more than others? And how can we change?
This Ted Video by Margaret Heffernan is worth watching.
Leaders need to ask questions, critique things, challenge the obvious, get out of their comfort zone. Renewal and success happens only when we refuse to lead our life and those whom we inspire, with apathy.
Be curious for the right reasons, curiosity is a wonderful leadership trait. It will enable you to be the change and explore new paths.
Curiosity is a desire to learn, to instigate change, to know, to care, one that you nor I can shy away from.
How are you paving the way forward to create a path of staying away from willful blindness?
As a leader what are you doing to take responsibility?
How willing are you to question and challenge the status quo?