Anytime you get a new person in your organization, you have an opportunity. Anytime a fresh set of eyes looks at the rut you live in, they’re going to see things that never occur to you. The key is to give that person permission to point out things that don’t make sense. Let them question everything. Your goal as an organization is to maximize that key window of opportunity.
I’ll never forget a testimonial I heard in Junior High about a chain-smoking biker who visited church for the first time. While I don’t remember the entire talk, one line lodged in my mind: At the door, a waiter handed him a menu and then walked him to his seat. Growing up in the church, it never occurred to me how absurd some of our common practices must be to those we desperately want to step in our doors. Why do we do them? Probably because no one ever asked why.
I’m trying to take advantage of my transition time with Wycliffe Canada, especially the months where I don’t have the title yet. I’m asking lots of questions, and I’m okay with the appearance of naivete. I’m fully aware that if I try to act like I know the answer, I’ll cheat Wycliffe Canada out of the foundational questions I should be asking. That’s the approach Patrick Lencioni endorses in his leadership book, Getting Naked.
So a fresh set of eyes is critical to challenge our practices and point out the obvious that is no longer apparent to the insiders.
That said, I think the emperor knew he had no clothes. Deep down, we know we’re maintaining absurdity. We know that we need to make a change; we just don’t want to do it. At the Catalyst conference a few years ago, Andy Stanley shared a quote that didn’t originate from him but stuck with him. Likewise, it stuck with me. It’s a pair of questions to ask your team, to help them move toward action and courage:
If our Board were to fire all of us today and bring in a new team, what changes would that new group of leaders make? What’s to stop us from stepping out of the room, walking back in and doing the same things?
That quote led me to my conviction for any job:
If I know what I need to do but don’t have the energy to do it, it’s time to step aside.