Have you ever been in a team or board conversation when someone asks the kind of question that disrupts the whole dialogue? It happens when everyone is operating off one set of assumptions and one individual challenges those assumptions which brings the conversation to a standstill. These are golden moments because they force the common assumption to be examined and the disruptive and often uncomfortable question forces the group to deal with a deeper issue that underlies their conversation.
Let me give you an example. Church boards often deal with known issues without getting to the underlying causes (which would raise uncomfortable questions). It takes just one board member who is not conflict adverse to ask the deeper question as to why the issue exists!
In one church I am familiar with, a long term pastor presided over a congregation that would go up to six or seven hundred and then fall to 300 - a cycle that was repeated fairly often in his career. The board spent a great deal of time trying to figure out how to keep this from happening until someone raised the uncomfortable question as to whether this actually had to do with the senior pastor's competency to lead at that level and his defensiveness that caused good leaders to leave the church. That question got to the table about 15 years later than it should have but it took one courageous board member to ask the disruptive question. And, it did put the issue in its proper perspective, whatever the outcome was going to be.
Or take a discussion about "making disciples" that regularly takes place in church circles. Often the discussion goes way down the route of strategy for making disciples until someone asks the disruptive question: "Folks, we don't even have a good definition of a disciple so all this talk has no target or focus." An irritating comment that causes the discussion to go back to the beginning and ask what we are actually trying to achieve.
It is not unlike the question why? Why are we doing this? Why are we assuming that our strategy will get us to where we need to go? Why do we think this "conventional" idea is actually a good idea? How does this program or strategy get us to where we are trying to go? Is there a better way?
Disruptive questions can be irritating but they force groups to clarify what they are after and focus on the right things rather than just the presenting issues. Usually they come from deep thinkers who are unafraid to raise the hard questions. They are a gift to any organization or board.
TJ Addington (Addington Consulting) has a passion to help individuals and organizations maximize their impact and go to the next level of effectiveness. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
"Creating cultures of organizational excellence."