Know What You Don't Know: 7 Things Problem-Finders Do
It is such a blessing when you live in an area that promotes intellectual thought and discussion. I live in Indianapolis, and from time to time I am invited to lectures on various topics by outstanding institutions that promote the nonprofit industry. I was recently invited to a presentation made possible by the Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust. This trust seeks to help people in need, especially women, children and families; to protect animals and nature; and to enrich community life, primarily in Phoenix and Indianapolis.
On this particular day, the Pulliam Trust sponsored a lecture by Dr. Michael Roberto, trustee professor of management at Bryant University. Dr. Roberto is a preeminent authority on strategic decision-making and senior management teams. He is a former faculty member at Harvard Business School, where he earned his Doctor of Business Administration degree.
He has written two books—“Why Great Leaders Don’t Take Yes for an Answer" and “Know What You Don’t Know”—and has won numerous awards. He's an eight-time winner of the Outstanding MBA Teaching Award at Bryant University. The Pulliam Trust brought Dr. Roberto to Indianapolis to share his expertise on neutralizing hidden threats to your organization.
Because many nonprofit leaders do not take the time to thoroughly examine their organizations' management, small mistakes happen often—and large disasters are just around the corner. In his lecture, Dr. Roberto helped disclose potential disasters that exist below the radar of most management-planning and decision-making. He discussed the process and offered skills and techniques to help recognize them and build a culture to address them.
The major themes of his talk were improving organizational performance and seeing problems within your organization.
He listed seven things problem-finders should do:
- Circumvent the gatekeepers. Hear from your customers. Listen to them with your own ears. Do not listen to yes-men in your organization, but seek internal and external stakeholders. Understand who your customer is and understand his or her needs and wants.
- Become an ethnographer. You must understand that people may say one thing and do something else. Watch and learn from those within the organization and those that use the organization. Gather independent information to make your own management assessment.
- Hunt for patterns. Use your intuition. Look for differences within your organization. Your perception of how the organization operates may be different than reality.
- Connect the dots. Research has shown that individuals are smarter than teams. Analyze how systems are connected for cause and effect.
- Encourage useful failures. People are afraid of failure. You can learn from failure to achieve success. Do not fear bad results, but instead learn from them.
- Teach how to talk and listen. Give your employees and leadership team permission to say what they really think, even if it is out of the box. Allow staff to play devil’s advocate. Talk to others with past experience and decide how to better make decisions.
- Watch the game film. Review your work and critique it. Do after-action reviews and seek improvement. Ask yourself what you set out to do, what actually happened, why it happened and what you're going to do next time. Study success, failure and near misses or good catches. Have a mindset of a problem-solver.
What I enjoyed most about Dr. Roberto’s conversation with this senior executive audience was his comments concerning improvement in organizational leadership. He noted that good leaders keep a beginner’s mind set. They are open to new possibilities and not afraid to try new things. He stressed that disasters in organizations have come at times from very disjointed or nonexistent communication channels. I left this lecture knowing that I can do a better job of managing and paying attention to the process of management on an ongoing basis and doing so is vitally important.
Thank you Dr. Roberto for reminding me to always seek to know what you don’t know!
Duke has extensive experience as a nonprofit practitioner, author, lecturer and consultant. He has been a contributing author to NonProfit PRO for the last 11 years. He has been a long-standing member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals where he was previously named the AFP Indiana Chapter Fundraising Executive of the Year and has held the CFRE designation for many years.
He received his doctorate degree from West Virginia University with an emphasis in education administration, master's degree from Marshall University with an emphasis in public administration and a bachelor's degree from West Virginia University with an emphasis in marketing/management. He has also completed post graduate work at the University of Louisville.
He is currently executive director of development for The Salvation Army Indiana Division in Indianapolis, Indiana. Contact Duke at firstname.lastname@example.org or 317-224-1029.