So what can leaders do to keep from avoiding difficult questions? Here are a few thoughts:
- lack of time: when boards, committees, and other various types of groups only meet every month or every quarter (and often even less), there is barely time to get through the agenda at hand. Leaders should be sure to not only find time to bring these groups together more often, they should meticulously control the agenda to ensure that difficult questions are addressed and discussed
- lack of imagination: having lived in a system for a lifetime, there is little wonder that to imagine a different scenario is not only difficult, it may actually prove impossible. Leaders can help groups develop this capacity by engaging with generative thinking questions on every agenda and by bringing in outside expertise to help others see and consider a different future
- lack of will: taking on difficult questions and trying to solve them may mean that everything changes and the future will never be the same. Leaders should consistently be doing the things that show their groups and organizations that execution of the perceived impossibility can be accomplished and, that in the long run, these new paradigms create a better reality
- lack of right people: boards, committees, and teams are often populated with the people who have the most investment in the current system (mostly because they are the ones who care most deeply about the organization). Leaders must be looking for new blood to bring to the table, focusing not only on specific skills and abilities, but also on new perspectives from an outsider's view
- lack of leadership: whether this be the CEO of the organization or the chair of the board, this deficiency can be quickly identified if this person is not consistently challenging the status quo and bringing new ideas to the group regularly. Leaders (positional or not), when spotting this, should do all they can to find new leadership as quickly as possible, putting in place those people who will embrace the difficult questions and bring to bear the time, imagination, will, and right people to answer those questions
Leaders are faced with difficult questions on a regular basis, whether they are being asked directly by others or are considering them in their own minds. Avoiding these questions merely "kicks the can down the road" with the problem continuing to exist and still being talked about the next time the group meets (or worse yet, the problems will NOT be talked about because individuals and groups are afraid to face them). Leaders can regularly take a quick inventory of how often they and their groups are taking on difficult questions and, if the number is shrinking, shift their thinking and action to once more embrace difficult questions as a part of their regular work.