What do you want?

Viv blogs about Peter Block’s The Answer to How is Yes. She lists some of the many “how?” questions that show up at meetings and argues that they often take us away from responsibility and/or power. When someone asks a “how” question they often seem to fall into one of two traps.

Suppose they ask “How do we get senior management buy-in for X?” Are they really saying, “I don’t really want to do X, but I’ll cover that up by appearing to be looking for practical ways to make X happen, all the while subtly suggesting it won’t.” Or is that they really want to do X, but fear it’s unfashionable in their organisation to express that kind of commitment or enthusiasm?

For me, this forms part of a twin challenge that we face in our dealings with each other. Do we really know what we want; and if we do, dare we articulate it clearly? I get the feeling that a lot of superficially practical discussions are really ways of avoiding these twin challenges.

Many’s the time someone says, “It’s very important we get some clear actions from this meeting.” Yet when asked them to name some specific action that they personally want, they often have a look of mild anxiety and revert to abstractions. I suppose another challenge might be to ask who is this “we” for whom they appear to be speaking?

I had more to say on this a few years back, under Shadow Conversations.


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