Friday, May 30, 2008

Questions Aren’t Criticism

In the Southeast at least, people tend to take questions as criticism. Granted it is sometimes in the way they are asked but in my observations, it is a pretty universal reaction.

My job is to ask good questions, raise issues etc. in the community. City Manager, soon-to-be City Attorney is a good friend. In fact we first met when he called to fire me as Chair of the Durham Workforce Development Board because someone had questioned whether my role qualified under the stipulations of the law.

When we were discussing the “questions as criticism” issue, Patrick pointed out that in the legal world, asking good questions is also expected. Rather than being offended anyone would ask, it is a key part of preparing for trial to anticipate questions.

I’m not immune. I have a strong bias for action and it has taken me a good part of my career to come to appreciate the importance of due process and due diligence even though there is a cost involved. In fact, that is why DCVB embraced information-based decision making a decade before it was vogue. There is peace of mind in not having every decision made by a contest of “wills” or anecdotal opinions.

But I read once that a group becomes dysfunctional when anyone can say “no” but it takes everyone to say “yes.” I can’t tell you how many times, I’ve regretted not voting “no” to something, even after passionately making an argument in question of an emotion. For some reason we all hide behind consensus. Maybe the pendulum has swung too far in that direction.

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