There are always undiscussable issues in any organization. There are usually “elephants in the room.” We shy away from naming them. We steer clear of brutal facts. It would seem disloyal to bring them up. We fear if we bring up such issues, we will be labeled a rebel and may even face reprisals.
I was asked to facilitate two meetings of over 250 leaders from my church. Rather than dodge the big issues, I believed it was vital to put them on the table – even to the point of addressing the taboo subject of succession from the founding pastor (in his presence). This was not easy. I think it only worked because I managed to:
- Get the top leadership on my side – If you do not get visible support from the leadership, they will be a strong resistance and render the whole task useless.
- Create an atmosphere of liberty – People will only open up in a “safe space” when there is a spirit of freedom in the place. “I felt the leadership wanted to hear this and did not feel I would be penalized,” one excited leader commented after the meeting.
- Use diplomatic honesty – Jesus certainly did not shy away from speaking the truth. But He always did it with grace and compassion.
- Ask the right questions – Framing the right questions around issues that often remain undiscussed requires discernment and wisdom (and even bouncing off leaders in advance).
Some of the questions that worked those days for me were:
- What would you do differently?
- What are the game changers here?
- What prohibits us from progressing forward?
- In which work situations do we need to discuss the undiscussables?
- What questions might energize change in these situations?