Sunday, February 20, 2011

Make the Naysayers Own It

I was just thinking how powerful it could be to give ultimate ownership to someone that shows initiative and passion for their job. It still sounds like a good idea. But how about giving ownership to someone who doesn't like how things are operating?

Recently, a mom at my kids preschool caused a ruckus. She thought parent-teacher conferences should be held in the early am, felt the music was too loud and lights too bright at nap time, and was upset that her toddler wasn't spoon-fed. The mother did not address any official at the school about these grievances, but instead created an online group for concerned parents to discuss.

The leaders at the school soon learned about this mother and her concerns. First, they asked her to discuss her issues with staff and allow a chance for them to be addressed as an organization. Then, in what I see as a mature and innovative move, they asked her to join the school's Board.

Why not take the biggest critics, the most vocal opponents, and make them the owners of the very process they have a problem with? Wouldn't a fox know best how to protect the hen house?

A leader would still have to provide guidelines, support, resources, and (maybe a bit more than normal) monitor as they would for any 'owner.' But I see a questioning of the status quo that might be helpful and a possible resolution that could be supported unanimously.

My guess is this mother would argue her child won't get nourishment unless they are spoon-fed. And my hope is that others would help her see that preschool is a time to learn to grow up. A time to learn that if you are hungry you can't always rely on being spoon-fed.

For someone who finds problems, making them responsible for a successful resolution could drive the best results. Maybe this means changing what is accepted. Maybe this means this person discovers the path to success is different than they imagined, becoming a new advocate and eliminating resistance. Maybe they don't like these options and leave. All good results I say.

What problems to you see with this plan? I don't know yet what will happen with our school board, or with music at nap times - but my kids seem to be eating fine by themselves.


  1. I like your idea and agree that more organizations should do this. I saw one spectacular example of how this can work for everyone involved. An ex-military officer, of all people, befriended a woman in his "chain of command" who constantly complained about her boss, one of the ex-military man's direct reports. She was eventually vindicated; the boss was ripping off the organization and was convicted of embezzlement. Unfortunately, most middle managers will do everything they can to stifle dissent and creativity.

  2. Interesting story Marcia! Thanks. I imagine, unfortunately, finding ways to stifle dissent is the norm.