So why is this question hard to ask and answer? Consider the following:
- when I ask the question, I am opening myself up to receiving knowledge that could rock my world
- when I ask the question, I do not have any control over what the student will say
- in order to ask the question, there has to be a safe environment for the student to respond truthfully
- when asking the question, I am, in some ways, putting the student on the spot
- asking the question has the possibility of hurting the relationship between myself and the student
- when answering the question, I have to decide how truthful I want to be
- when answering the question, I am putting my reputation at risk
- when answering the question, I need to know that I am safe in that time and space
- if my answer leads to others' reputations being put in jeopardy, I risk their trust and friendship
- I need to consider whether the person asking the question is coming from a place of best intention
- I need to believe that what I say will be held in confidence
All leaders have a blind spot - both about themselves as well as others. Asking this type of question helps to reveal those areas of concern and weakness that perhaps only the leader can begin to address. One other aspect of why asking this question is so hard...when you get an answer that does rock your world, you will need to act on the information. If a student, employee, or colleague reveals something that needs addressing, they will watch closely to see how you react - and then how you act. You had better do something...and then follow up with that person if you want to keep your credibility.
So it's time to ask the hard question - and if you are ever on the receiving end of the question, go ahead and answer it in a way that improves the organization. Your truthful and honest answer could make all the difference in the world.