What are you protecting?

One of the most useful questions I discovered from my past work in public service is, “What is this for?”. It is important to be clear with out intentions and objectives before setting out to do something. If it’s for something we all can agree on achieving, it’s easier to get buy-in. It also helps remind us when we are trying to achieve too many competing objectives at the same time – how we might be setting ourselves up for disappointment.

Now I’d like to introduce a slightly different question and more for ourselves than for others. What are you protecting? Yes, when you determine to do one thing or another, what does it protect? Maybe it’s to clock some quick wins to cover your mistakes last week. Protecting your reputation. Perhaps it’s to keep your job by “justifying” your paycheck. Protecting your job.

You realise this is the “selfish” version of “What is it for?” And it is important for us to be aware of the selfish motives we have in proposing or doing something. That helps to recognise internal tensions and prepare us to resolve disappointments. Being honest begins with yourself.