‘What is really going on?’ It is the question often used in the Adaptive Leadership practice as well as in the psychodynamics approach. In the former, it is about being on the ‘Balcony’ rather than the ‘Dance Floor’, or the ability to be at both at the same time. And being on the ‘Balcony’ could mean reading the political landscape as an example.
In the psychodynamics approach, the question is about understanding the covert dynamics on various levels e.g. intra-personal and group level. For example, John always fails to refuse others’ request on him, resulting in him working too late and losing his own priorities. He is frustrated about it and tries to improve without much success. The overt view is that he is bad at saying no to others and should pick up some skills in doing so. However, on a covert level:
- Intra-personal – John may actually derives sense of safety unconsciously by being the victim of overloaded with others’ work…. just like the role he has played with his parents and siblings for many many years,
- Group – The team may be playing to John’s valency to take on others’ work at the expense of doing his own work well. This scapegoats John so that the team does not need to face its collective failure to meet business target.
So, it is useful to ask ourselves the question ‘What is really going on?’ instead of tackling simply the overt reason / view which does not really solve the problem. Yet, some thoughts came to my mind recently on this question. To ponder this question more, it actually implies subtly (especially when we often stress on the word ‘REALLY’ in the question) that:
- Ignore the overt reason / view
- Figure out THE covert one.. which is like THE truth / answer
In fact, I have experienced myself and seen others like playing ‘detective game’ in finding the ‘real murderer’ in the name of this question. Saying, ‘No, no, no… it is not. Tell me what is REALLY going on’ On reflection, it is dangerous to do so. I think more often than not there are always more than one reasons why someone behaves in a certain ways. It is not ‘A leads to B’. It is more like ‘A1 + A2 +….. + An leads to B’. So, John could be really not skilled in saying no. At the same time, he enjoys the familiarity and attention in the role of being dumped with others’ work. And the group is scapegoating him at the same time.
What does it mean? It means:
- Do not deny the overt reason / view immediately
- Always come up with multiple hypotheses on any covert dynamics
So, a better question to ask instead is:
‘What may also be going on?’
This embraces the overt one, and the notion of multiple dynamics.
Thinking further, I guess that it is not even about ‘A1 + A2 +….. + An leads to B’ The As do not act together in a linear way to influence. They may actually be like in parallel universes. One of the As is sometimes in action and sometimes not. Or one of the As only commences to exist in the subject’s and / or observers’ mind because we see it in a certain way. hm……