Superpower #1: Being a Respectful Provocateur

The ‘R’ in Reconnoiter stands for ‘respectful provocation’, which all R-Leaders have as one of their superpowers.

But what does it mean to be a respectful provocateur?

A typical definition of the word provocateur offers a potentially negative connotation: one who is an agitator or who disrupts.

However, for the R-Leader, agitating and disrupting are not negative.

The thing in the middle of the washing machine is called an ‘agitator’: it’s job is to toss the clothing about, to loosen it, to open up the folds so more water can get in. Without agitation, not all the bits get cleaned.

A light switch ‘disrupts’ an electrical signal: without it, the lamp never goes off and the power bill is always enormous.

As an R-Leader, you likely already use this superpower.

Author Timothy Keller offers the term ‘respectful provocation’ in Generous Justice. He suggested that respectful provocation is a way to encourage others to discuss and share beliefs and values with the understanding that such discussions cannot be neutral. For most people, their beliefs and values are often not negotiable, until something shakes them up a bit.

Such provocation goes beyond conversations about beliefs (faith-based, political, or otherwise).

Think about workplace norms. Every organization has The Big Three: a mission, vision, and (there it is!) values. The Big Three are not negotiable. Team members agree upon hire to support them or in some way indicate they can abide by and respect them at minimum.

Just like social conversations about beliefs and values, workplace norms must be discussed at some point, whether it’s during on-boarding, at individual annual reviews, or when something happens that calls those norms into question.

Regardless of personal or professional discussions, talking about norms is not always easy. Confronting them when something happens is where the R-Leader’s superpower of respectful provocation comes in.

Recon-Leaders observe the environment and are able to engage others in courageous conversations, often leading to change and growth for everyone involved.

Respectful provocation brings elements of Reggio Emilia-inspired education into the adult arena. The four pillars of the Reggio Emilia Approach apply:

  • Team members must have some say over what they experience.
  • When people use all their senses to understand the world around them, they are better able to think and process.
  • Colleagues must interact with others and be encouraged to explore.
  • Team members should be encouraged to express themselves and be given the freedom to do so.

One way that R-Leaders engage this superpower is by helping their team members ‘think outside the box’, but that’s just one way: the opportunities are endless.

If learning how to develop your respectful provocation superpower is something you’d like to do, reach out.

Published by AR Neal

Dr. Andree Robinson-Neal got bit by the writing bug in the 1970s and despite a career in education has never been cured of her penchant for speculative fiction. You can sometimes find her at https://agnubloom.com, where she writes under the name AR Neal, who will hopefully be discovered and have a bunch of her work republished in multiple languages and turned into stage and screenplays. She also writes under the pen name Hou-Rhyder. Find those words at https://hou-rhyder.com. She is a practitioner and the developer of Reconnoiter Leadership. Learn more at https://r-leadership.com.

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