While taking the Certified Agile Leadership II (CAL-II) class recently through The Braintrust Consulting Group, the instructor, Anu Smalley, made a statement that resonated with me …
“It’s better to explore than to explain.”
Let’s Start with the Explainer
The explainer is a person who frequently has a reason for why something is not working, and this individual often fails to carry out the assigned duties. You may hear him say, “That’s not in my job description!”
Example #1: “Right … I was going to work on that task today but was way too busy doing other stuff. I just have too much work on my plate, and it would be nice if other people would pitch in to help me.”
Example #2: “Look … This customer complains all the time about our stuff. The problem is with them and not with us. Why don’t we get rid of that customer?”
As you can see with these two examples, the explainer places the blame on others and is incapable of looking inwardly. It’s true, others may be failing to do their job, or the customer may be complaining unfairly. However, this shortsighted mentality of making excuses falls short of solving problems.
Moving on to the Explorer
The explorer assumes the perspective that problems, issues, and obstacles are part of doing business. In other words, the appropriate action must be taken to meet the goals and objectives of the organization.
In fact, the explorer might make this comment during an interview: “I’m applying for this position because I know there are creative ways to help our customers with their needs.”
Let’s take an example of an explorer in action:
Manager: “Tamara, we are seeing an increase in products returned by customers. The main reason appears to be that the product description on the website is confusing the customers. Can you help?”
Tamara: “Of course! Anytime we see products returned to us from customers, we want to identify the underlying reason this is taking place. I will make sure to start working on it today. The first step is for me to collect the data we have, and I will take appropriate steps to solve this problem.”
Manager: “I know you have other work to do, and I appreciate that you can help us. Do you want me to assign other people to assist you?”
Tamara: “At this point, I want to conduct a quick investigation regarding the root cause of the problem. Once I do this, I will contact you about the type of help I will need.”
Tamara is embracing the explorer mindset by taking action and immediately addressing a problem to find a solution. Differently, the explainer would quickly blurt out excuses as to why he cannot perform this work. The explainer will also blame other people for failing to do the work and will easily criticize the customers for lacking product knowledge. Thus, the issue remains unsolved.
A curious approach to problems is important. The explorer knows there is no one way to get things done. It’s best to have an open mind and to consider as many options as possible. On the other hand, explainers block out the possibilities because they focus on the faults of others.
In the exploration of options, it’s also important to understand that failure is par for the course. Eliminating an option that fails to work is actually a step forward in the journey.
In short, successful people, regardless of the type of work they perform, are explorers who are curious, committed, and tenacious.