You don't want to know the answer

Effective leaders ask good questions but too many people in charge don't ask questions. After all if you don't ask the question you can always deny knowledge. The Americans call this plausible deniability; we call it wilful blindness and selective deafness.

"I didn't know some of my very senior managers were walking away with £million pay offs. I didn't ask the details of individual packages. I was assured all payments were in accordance with contracts and practice with in the service."

If waiting list targets are being met and the service is delivering the required budget savings why would you ask what impact this is having on patient safety? You don't want to know the answer.

We assume whistle blowers are telling senior management / the board what has been kept from them by middle managers over keen to please or to fearful for their own jobs to report bad news. Truth is the board and senior managers knew enough not to ask.

After a series of scandals exposing bad practices the assistant director challenged a large group of managers to explain how this was possible when the organisation had been for years spending £ millions on staff training. No one said anything this was clearly a rhetorical question more about the senior management team covering their backs and letting it be known if management heads were to roll then it wouldn't be theirs. I however was young and naive I suggested it was lack of one to one supervision. How could this be the AD replied we have a clear policy only recently reiterated by the senior management team that all staff should receive a monthly supervision session. I persisted "yes but every manager hear knows that doesn't happen". To which the AD said is there anyone here who doesn't provide their staff with regular, formal, supervision in line with the senior management teams expectations ? No hands were raised, no words spoken. "So who are these managers then" he asked me in front of this room full of managers. Now I was naive not stupid. I said its easy enough to find out we just send an  anomalous questionnaire to every member of staff with one question " do you receive one to one ,formal, monthly supervision?" Needless to say no staff questionnaire ever asked that question.

Blair McPherson author of UnLearning management published by Russell House

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Former Member 7 Years Ago
Blair, very true. It is too easy to just turn your head. "Don't get involved" is a regularly heard warning; "I know nothing". Sadly this leads to further and deeper problems, disturbs or even overturns the effectiveness of organisations. Pay-offs? don't take me there..... I've seen it all (and offered a pay-off with draconian - solicitors term - confidentiality agreement. It is sickening because it all works against sense and intelligence, and raid the public purse to keep organisations running badly. While this goes on, it looks as though the rewards are contrary to what we know should be happening, but it persists. Isn't it time for this whole mess to be investigated, the practices corrected and permanently put-down?