About Conversation Kindling

The purpose of this blog is to share stories, metaphors, quotes, songs, humor, etc. in hopes they'll be used to spark authentic and rewarding conversations about working and living fruitfully. There are at least three things you can gain by getting involved in these conversations. First, you'll discover new and important things about yourself through the process of thinking out loud. Second, you'll deepen your relationships with others who participate by swapping thoughts, feelings, and stories with them. Finally, you'll learn that robust dialogue centered on stories and experiences is the best way to build new knowledge and generate innovative answers to the questions that both life and work ask.

I write another blog called My Spare Brain. This is where I am "storing" ideas for use in future books, articles, blog posts, speeches, and workshops. There is little rhyme or reason for what I post there. I do this to encourage visitors to come as treasure hunters looking for new ways of seeing and thinking vs. researchers looking for new or better answers to questions they already know how to ask.

30 November 2009

Sir Winston's Wisdom

Sir Winston Churchill's leadership methods have been sliced and diced for over a half a century by experts looking to unearth his secrets. One of them is Karl Weick, a social psychologist and Rensis Likert Distinguished University Professor at the University of Michigan's Ross School of Business.

At a leadership conference in June, 2000, Weick discussed one of Churchill's great strengths: his willingness to face his mistakes and correct them. To illustrate, he told of a time during WW II when Churchill discovered that Singapore was vulnerable to a Japanese land attack. He quoted Churchill:
"I ought to have known. My advisers ought to have known and I ought to have been told and I ought to have asked."
To figure out why none of those things happened, Churchill employed a debriefing protocol:
  • Why didn't I know?
  • Why wasn't I told?
  • Why didn't I ask?
  • Why didn't I tell what I knew?
By asking and answering those questions, Churchill got a clear picture of what went wrong. From there, he was able to create safeguards to make sure it never happened again.

  • Tell of a time when you were blind sided as Churchill was
  • Answer the four questions of his debriefing protocol
  • List what went awry, and safeguards you might have created at the time to make sure the same mistakes were not repeated in the future
  • Are there safeguards you can put in place today that reduce your chances of being blind sided tomorrow?
"Look for what's missing. Many advisers can tell a President how to improve what's proposed or what's gone amiss. Few are able to see what isn't there." - Donald Rumsfeld, former U.S. Secretary of Defense
"Far be it from me to paint a rosy picture of the future. Indeed, I do not think we should be justified in using any but the most sombre tones and colours while our people, our Empire and indeed the whole English-speaking world are passing through a dark and deadly valley. But I should be failing in my duty if, on the other wise, I were not to convey the true impression, that a great nation is getting into its war stride." - Sir Winston Churchill, House of Commons, 22 January 1941

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