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I Cant Use This Approach Unless My Boss Does - Power, Accountability, and Consequences

People who work with us often struggle with this dilemma: in theory, they come to believe that it would be very helpful to use our approach with people who have more power than they do, and in practice, sometimes it seems too risky to try. Some examples of things that feel too risky include raising questions with your boss about his or her performance, disagreeing publicly with people who have more power , or otherwise sharing information that might lead you or the person in power to feel put on the sp ot.


As Roger outlines in his chapter for our new Fieldbook, this feeling of risk often - but not always - comes from a series of untested assumptions about the person with more power: "They won't listen to me," "I'll lose my composure" and "They'll sabotage my work, or my career" are three typical examples. Testing these assumptions with the person - the approach we advocate - seems too risky for the same reasons!


Last week, I led half-day introductory workshops on our approach for eighty leaders in a technology organization. They had similar concerns, and I offered them three thoughts:


1 - No one can offer a guarantee of safety. They might be right about their boss! We can, and should make choices that we can live with.


2 - Our experience says that the skills and mindset we teach can help us raise difficult issues with people in power in a way that dramatically reduces actual and perceived risk.


3 - Many, if not most clients we've worked with usually avoid, miss or significantly underestimate the impact of not raising difficult issues with people in power. They end up living with the negative consequences of not raising them anyway.


I didn't offer these thoughts to persuade them to take the risk - and I don't now with you . My colleagues and I believe, however, that people get better results and work becomes more fulfilling when they are curious and say what they think - regardless of power differences.


What are your reactions to all this? Please e-mail me with your thoughts.


Matt Beane is an associate with Roger Schwarz & Associates and co-authored a chapter of the recently published "Skilled Facilitator Fieldbook: Tips, Tools, and Tested Methods for Consultants, Facilitators, Managers, Trainers, and Coaches," available on Amazon.com and via other quality booksellers.


This article was originally published in Fundamental Change, Roger Schwarz & Associates' free, monthly ezine. You can subscribe at: http://www.schwarzassociates.com/ezine_signup.html In exchange for subscribing, you'll receive a link to a free .pdf copy of "Holding Risky Conversations," a chapter from our recently-published fieldbook.


We write Fundamental Change to help you create workplaces and communities that are simultaneously highly effective and that improve the quality of life.


Every month we:


* Address issues important to you as practitioners and leaders
* Share client examples and case studies
* Offer tips and tools for challenging situations
* Offer resources to help you become more effective.


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