Leadership Nudge® 376 – Earn the right to ask questions of clarification

February 23, 2022by Sandy Wilmer

But first . . . redwork

When you are asked to work on a project, start by doing some redwork. Then use that work to ask what changes should be made. Gaining clarification on a project is easier when there is a tangible place to start.


Hey, you want to earn the right to ask questions of clarification.  

Let’s say some initiative comes down. This happens all the time. It passes through your boss and he or she asks you, “hey, take a look at this” or “can you start working on this project?” You really don’t know what this is all about. But you work in the company and you have an idea. You know what the company makes and you have an idea what company values. So you can take a stab at it. 

But our tendency is to ask why. Well, tell me more. What do you want? It’s just annoying. Don’t do that. Earn the right to ask those questions by actually doing some work first, then go back to your boss the next day and say, “Hey, I thought about this work, talked to the team. Here’s kind of what we think we’re trying to get at. Does this seem right? How would you tweak it? Here are a couple options.” Do some A/B [examples], like just sort of sitting in a dentist’s chair like this, [or] this.  

Boss: Closer. This, that kind of thing. 

Now, it’s not annoying, and your boss can actually see more clearly what it is you’re grappling with. Fundamentally, this is an imbalance between redwork and bluework. Redwork is DOING work, bluework, the THINKING work, what we’re doing when we ask a lot of questions about “What’s this going to look like?”  

Without doing any redwork, we’re just sort of wasting time wandering around in the fog, in the bluework, of conceptualizing and thinking without actually putting anything down on paper, which is the redwork.  

So you want to engage, even if it’s just an hour of redwork. Then go back and say, “Okay, now what do we think?” That’ll help the process, move the process along? It’s the same with writing a book. You can conceptualize it all day long. Until you start writing some chapters, writing some stories, it’s not going to come together.  

I’m David Marquet. That’s your Leadership Nudge. 

Sandy Wilmer

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Intent-Based Leadership International, LLC • 1435 E. Venice Ave #104-173 • Venice, FL 34292 • +1.941.408.0311

Intent-Based Leadership International, LLC • 1435 E. Venice Ave #104-173 • Venice, FL 34292 • +1.941.408.0311

Intent-Based Leadership International, LLC • 1435 E. Venice Ave #104-173 • Venice, FL 34292 • +1.941.408.0311