Wednesday, February 17, 2016

The Courage Required By "Why?"

Below is the text of an email that I sent today to my teammates in Product Development. I post it here as a record of my thoughts on these subjects, for my daughter, Anna, and son, Luke.


Hi friends,

Here’s my philosophical email for the week. :-)

I’ve noticed an almost theological reverence for some opinions in Health Catalyst, especially those opinions that come from Steve Barlow, Tom Burton, and in the past, Dr. Burton… and occasionally my opinions, too.  I can say without a doubt, none of us want that sort of reverence. We want our ideas and opinions to stand up to the same level of scrutiny as everyone else’s. We want a culture that is very comfortable asking “Why?” over and over again until the basis for our opinions, ideas, and practices stand on solid ground.

You can challenge me with “Why?” on any of my opinions, at any time. I might react with a moment of defensiveness— I’m human— but I will always return to a state of logic, not emotion, and will always embrace a better idea than mine. Naturally, there might be times when I return the volley of a challenge and stay with my opinion or idea. That’s ok, too, especially when the accountability for that opinion rolls clearly and specifically to me. In those cases, it’s important that we have the autonomy to succeed and fail by our own opinions.

I have two sayings that guide my philosophy on this sort of thing:

The only thing I enjoy more than being right is being wrong so that I can be more right, next time.

As a leader, you have to love being better more than you love being yourself.

Let’s all of us, hold each of us, accountable for creating a culture that encourages— not just tolerates— challenges to common practices and opinions, all in the interest of constantly getting better.  It takes courage to accept scrutiny without defensive emotions and it takes courage to deliver scrutiny without fear of reprisal.

Let’s create a culture that has the two-sides of courage required by “Why?”.


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