Using Powerful Questions to Fight the Negative What-Ifs

In Uncategorized by Robin Maguire

This is the second post in a series on becoming more innovative. The first article  focused on culture, and this one and the next will focus on you.

Last time, we looked at your church or organization being characterized by a “culture of stuck.” But what if part of the problem is that you’re not leading by example?

While creating a culture of positive what-ifs is crucial, the success of that transition starts with the leader being a positive role model. If you’re resistant to new ideas and overly risk-averse, your staff and church members will be, too. People will follow your leadership — for better or worse.

Jesus was a great example of being a positive what-if leader and leading us to respond to those what-if questions. When it comes down to it, the ultimate question we ask during organic outreach is: “What if?”

What if you trusted Christ?

What if your sins could be forgiven?

What if you had access to the power of the Holy Spirit?

Sometimes, it’s easy to get stuck in the negative what-ifs. Fear can confine our choices and limit our potential — especially that of our team and organization. When we focus on fears, we crowd out a lot of options. We also tend to limit our exposure because the negative what-ifs hold us back from partaking in new partnerships and trying new ministries or approaches.

So let’s take a look at what to do about this!

Are Your What-If Statements Negative or Positive?

A focus on negative what-ifs means you’re risk-averse. On the other hand, a positive what-if mindset allows you and your team to be more creative and embrace innovation — both of which are essential for reaching out to the community in new ways. Still, both mindsets can have potential downsides. Positive what-if thinkers can view those who surface potential implementation issues as obstacles to progress, while those who have a more negative what-if outlook can see the other side as unwilling to face reality.

Balance is critical, but leaning toward a positive what-if mindset will help you during organic outreach implementation. Innovation is also essential, so I’d suggest that you be more open to creativity but also encourage those with negative what-if mindsets to chime in post-brainstorming — when you’re examining how to proceed.

Timing is critical here because you don’t want them to discourage your creatives. At some point, if your teammates are hearing too many negative interjections, they may even leave out of frustration.

Get Unstuck in the Moment

If you find yourself stuck in all the reasons why something won’t work and unable to see new possibilities, try asking the following questions:

·       What exactly are my fears? (Make sure to quantify the costs and the impact.)

·       How likely are my fears to play out?

·       Are the assumptions I’m making necessarily true? What if one of them changes?

·       What can I do to reduce the risk?

·       If the worst-case scenario occurs, will I have advanced warning to reduce the damage?

·       If we tried something before and it failed, what are all the different variables of the experiment? And how much does each variable impact the outcome?

·       Now that the worst-case scenario hasn’t occurred, what are all the benefits of moving forward?

·       What action can I take to make the positive scenario more likely to occur?

It’s interesting how many people in the negative what-if mode don’t even stop to consider these last two questions, which focus on positive outcomes. And these line the road to innovation and new possibilities for reaching more people with God’s message of hope.

Keep a Log

I find it fascinating that many of our fears don’t ever play out. No spider has ever spun a web around my head and sucked my brains out (though I still think it could happen). But God knew we would be fearful, so He had to tell us 365 times in the Bible to fear not!

I often have my clients do an exercise where they log their fears in their phones or journals, with a description of their biggest concerns when the what-ifs start surfacing. Once a month, I also have them reflect on the log and identify which fears were realized and which ones never transpired. Very quickly, it becomes apparent that most things that concern them will never actually happen.

I think it’s also good to look at what ideas you’ve implemented after focusing on positive what-if opportunities. Describe the results and what you learned from the experience. If you don’t have many to list, this might suggest you need to push the envelope more and either build your creativity or build a team of people who can assist you with innovative thinking.

These logs can be powerful in building confidence and shifting your mindset to innovative thinking.Loriana Sekarski is founder and president of BONSAI, a consulting company that transforms leaders (and businesses) into the best version of themselves. As a leadership coach, Loriana teaches leaders how to hone soft skills, spur workplace engagement, and achieve untapped levels of potential. Outside of BONSAI, Loriana serves as an adjunct professor at Washington University’s graduate student program. Additionally, she’s fine-tuning her passion project, TakeFlight, a program that addresses domestic abuse within the Christian community.