Why Settle for Maybe?

Caron Mason has a nice reflective post on her blog about whether to make changes (in a new job) or just go with the flow for a while to better understand the system. When you're new to a job, the "we have always done it that way" answer actually seems pretty good, at least as a start. But there is one line in her post that I think provides for an interesting tangent. Part of what is pushing her to change things is a comment she got from her Vice President:

The vice president often smiles at me and says, “if you can think of
any way to improve this, let me know.” She must say this a few times a
week—which makes me think maybe she really wants me to change things

True, MAYBE she really wants her to change things. Maybe she just wants incremental improvements on a number of specific projects. Maybe she likes things the way they are and pushed it on to Caron as a way to buy some time. Maybe she meant…anything.

It is true that Caron's interpretation is logical, but why do we settle for interpretations? This one is very common. We take a few words spoken by someone, we then fill out a more comprehensive story about what was really meant, and then we make our own decisions based on the story, rather than the words. Sometimes we have to–we can't always have access to the full story. But so often we DO have access–we can go ask the person:

So, I've noticed that this is about the fourth time you've asked if I had a way to improve something, and it touches on a topic I've been thinking a lot about lately: do you think i should be making broader changes around here?

Have the conversation. Ask the question. Speak up.


  1. 08.01.2009 at 12:34 pm

    Good advice, Jamie

  2. 09.01.2009 at 12:52 pm

    While CEO of a running association, our on-site registration for a training program exceeded our expectations.
    I said to the Program Director, “It looks like we’ll have to order more t-shirts.”
    She asked, “are you telling me to order more shirts or just making an observation?”
    Since then, I’ve always been direct.