Leaders Explain Rationale

People who explain their rationale tend to communicate the reasoning and facts behind an idea or decision.

I did some work for a nationally known marching arts ensemble, the “Troubadours”. They were led by executive director “Steve” (names changed).

Steve wanted me to lead the whole 120 member group in exercises to determine the most significant reasons for participation, and develop a statement of purpose with everyone’s input, all in the same room, at the same time.

Without going into detail, that’s not the best way to go about this. But Steve wanted it. When I asked, or when anyone on the staff asked, “Why are we doing this, and why must we do it this way?” Steve would reply with emotional responses from the gut, like “We want everyone to feel important!” “This’ll be great!” “We need to remind everyone why we do this!”

The thing was, no one really needed this clarification. Everyone was pretty clear on their individual purposes, and the collective goals were pretty well-accepted. Everyone fought us on the process, the product, and the concept. It was a bit of a flop. The staff commiserated with me by saying, “He does this to all of us. You’ve been ‘Steved’.”

Being “Steved” in that organization meant this – Steve communicated with feelings, opinions, and intuition. This kept the organization from achieving clarity. There was no effort to communicate the reasoning, facts, or rationale in a way that created understanding.

How did this process happen better for Small Business Saturday in the early years?

Matt Hantz was VP of the corporate team and adept at explaining rationale. He could channel Mark’s analysis, but there were two other virtues that helped Matt be an effective leader:

He grew up in a home where both parents were small business people, and he has a gift for developing clear explanations. Next week, when we talk about Structured Messaging, you’ll see how he nailed this for the Small Business Saturday team in the early days. For now, check this out:

He’s leading a new team now, and his ability to explain rationale is evident in this piece (text and video) for Fast Company about his new team.

Explain rationale, instead of offering your intuitive thoughts. This creates clarity.

Explaining Rationale is a leadership behavior that helps drive Clarity during the Alignment process of the Work of Leaders.

To learn more about an assessment that measures and guides growth for leaders and potential leaders, start here.

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This is the seventh post in an 18-part series. Throughout the series, I’ll be providing real-world negative examples from a variety of settings.

For positive examples, we’ll look at one specific case study: the Small Business Saturday initiative from American Express. Small Business Saturday has become part of the holiday shopping lexicon (positioned between Black Friday and Cyber Monday) and reminds us to “Shop Small” and keep our dollars local. It’s been tremendously successful and is a huge initiative, but there’s a behind-the-scenes story that lifts up best practices in leadership we can all adopt; not every leader or team member involved is a high-level executive at American Express. In fact, much of the effort was a product of the work of a specific team at M Booth, a mid-sized award winning PR firm. Follow along to learn more. To start at the first post in this series, click here.

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