Friday, July 23, 2010

when the obvious is not so obvious

This past week I came across a decison made at my university that I thought was a poor decision - the right answer seeemed so obvious to me, and yet the decsion was made that seemed to make little or no sense. As I contemplated the disconnect between what I believed to be the obvious decision - and the decision that was ultimately made - I wondered to myself "who is wrong in this or the other person?" So I began to explore some other questions that might help me understand the disconnect I was experiencing:Bulleted List

  • what might they know that I do not know?
  • am I the only one experiencing this disconnect, or do others feel the same way?
  • why am I feeling this disconnect - what is driving my reasoning behind this?
  • since this decision is not in the realm of my own job description, why am I even caring?
  • if what I percieve to be obvious is not so obvious to the person making the decision, what part of the decision making process is not so obvious to that person (or to me)?
  • what is it that might drive someone to make a decision opposite of what I believe that even they should perceive as obvious?
  • how many times do I make a decision which seems obvious to me - but is probably perceived by others as a wrong decision?
  • are there ways to make my decision making process more transparent so that those who do not understand why I make certain decisions will be able to understand why I made the decision I did?

When I see a decision made that seems so "wrong" in my own eyes, my first impluse is to go and let that person know that I believe the decision they made was wrong. For some reason, I believe that my decision making process must be superior to their decision making process, and that if they would only listen to me they could change their decision and do the right thing. I learned long ago that going to that person to express my opinion often does little or no good. Even if it is done with good intentions (for whose good?) I will probably be perceived as a "know-it-all" and will lose respect and trust with that person. I do believe there are times when one has the right - and responsibility - to ask for a clarification of why a decision has been made...but am also discovering that it should truly be for clarification, not because I believe it is a wrong decision (that's a fine line that will most often show up in how the question is asked). This is especailly true when the decision really does not affect what I am paid to do and does not interfere with the day-to-day living out of my vocation.

As I ramble through the writing of this blog, I have come to realize that this is the dilemma of most everyone in any organization - or any relationship. How many times during the day does one say "What were they thinking?" Often, we will never know...sometimes it might be best NOT to know - and at other times, it will be best to actually inquire and seek to understand the other person's thinking. What is obvious to me may not be so obvious to someone else...and what is obvious to them may not seem so obvious to me. I suppose that is what makes relationships - and organizations - so much fun to be a part of. As someone once said, if the two of us always think alike, then there is no need for both of us. Thank God for differences.

In the meantime, I will continue to wonder why that particular decision was made...and wrestle with the ambiguity that exists within me. And if I am ever in a place to make a similar decision...well, I better wait until I am there to decide what I will do.


kurt bennett said...

"...sometimes it might be best NOT to know - and at other times, it will be best to actually inquire and seek to understand the other person's thinking."

Just what I needed to hear today Don. Thanks for a great post.

Don Christian said...

glad to be of service...this was a difficutl post to write - probably becasue i struggle with this all the time. I want to know what is behind someone's thinking - it becomes a learning tool for me. The problem is when I asj the question, it can come off as judgemental. A fine line to walk...

Matt Grahn said...

We can all feel this way at times, no doubt about that. This is a great reminder that we, as educators (and yes, as a basketball coach, I still believe that I am an educator; even beyond the court), need to remember that our students feel this way at times too. It is a great way to reflect on our teaching by putting ourselves in their shoes.