Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Asking Tough Questions

In staying with the team theme from my previous posting... Have you ever observed in a meeting a team member who asks tough, yet constructive, questions? But these tough questions seem so extreme and to-the-point that others feel put-off by a certain candidness? And does the post-meeting water cooler banter revolve around how to exclude this certain toxic team member from subsequent meetings?

Well, if you agree on the need for detoxing your team you may want to reconsider. According to Diane Coutu (May, 2009 Harvard Business Review interview, "Why Teams Don't Work") teams need "someone who can help the team by challenging the tendency to want too much homogeneity, which can stifle creativity and learning." Coutu calls these folks "deviants."

We may perceive a deviant's motive as wanting to make waves for the sake of making waves. But in reality, they may have the only objective, and perhaps outsider, point of view vital to a project's success. Bottom line: deviants ask "why." So, before we get bent out of shape at our next team meeting over tough questions let's step back and ask ourselves: Why did this tough, yet valid, question just make me uncomfortable? And besides, haven't we all at some point thought of a deviant question at a meeting but were too uncomfortable to ask it?  Not so for your deviant team member.... are you a deviant?

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