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Healthy Questioning


My Great Uncle gave me a small plaque when I was in Junior High with a powerful quote.  It hung in every place I lived until passing it along years later.


"The important thing is not to stop questioning!"
-Albert Einstein

What my Great Uncle encouraged was a healthy curiosity.  His wisdom has been & remains valuable to me to this day.  In this spirit, let's discover how one question has led to just the right "thing" when it was needed most!

"What would have happened if we didn't do what we did?"

Early in my career a mentor asked me to ponder & attempt to answer this question.  The answers seem to function in diverse ways but here are three for your consideration.


We all like to feel as if our achievements are valued by the organizations we work with. Therefore, having a vehicle to display the value of what you do, how much you've done & the potential for increasing achievement for your profession is vitally important.  The overall impression of this data will lead to support your efforts.  Your "good" can be maximized through two means, people or stuff.  Show them & tie it back to "why" with creativity to show you & your teams return on investment and awesome impact!


Unless you work for yourself, the answers won't always yield something you want the board or boss to know.  It will, however, identify effectiveness shortcomings inside functions.  My wife always reminds me to be careful what we look for because we might not find it or maybe we will but then, so what?  In dissection, you're bound to find both good & bad so the key is to search for aspects that will provide balance & growth. Ask the hard questions & use the rule of 3's; find what the team does well, what needs work & what isn't their/your fault.  In addressing the last portion, Zig Ziglar reminds us mistakes are part of life.  Framing issues like this keeps everyone "team" focused.  When we encourage a "make mistakes faster" culture, learning happens quicker consistently.  What gets measured gets done and it's always shifting so keep an open & curious mind!



Most of our decisions we make on a daily/hourly basis will be wrong but indecision is paralysis; weigh the risks/benefits & move.  Leadership is always situational & your style won't necessarily fit everything you've been asked to do.  Work inside your strengths & delegate your weaknesses.  Staff through the strengths of your people so they have opportunities to grow. Robert Townsend in "Up the Organization" gives us the 50% rule for making assignments; if someone has 50% of what is required to do a job just give it to them.  With the right resources, in 6 months they will probably have figured it out.  If not, oh well, they still learned & so did you.  Don't treat every problem like an anomaly and after all, rules & regulations guide most aspects.  Figure out what problems are truly unique & spend time on those.  His book is a great no-nonsense resource that holds value to this day!



W.I.N. = What's Important Now

Take care of your people & they'll take care of the job.  If you instill a positive organizational culture that encourages everyone to focus on W.I.N. everything will move in the right direction.  Figure out the 1 or 2 things you can contribute & stay in your power position.  Your example encourages others to find theirs as well.  To know yourself is to become more effective with your talents.  The legendary Hall of Fame NFL Coach, George Allen, kept this quote on his desk during his tenure as a reminder to remain steadfast with purposeful effort.

"Is what I am doing or about to do getting us closer to our objective?   Winning!"
-George Allen

If what you & others are doing moves the enterprise toward its goals then you've collectively focused on the opportunities of tomorrow instead of the problems of yesterday.  Remember, success depends on how effective we are at creating an environment where others can be successful.  Encourage, inspire & stay engaged with healthy curiosity!


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About the Extension Foundation

The Extension Foundation was formed in 2006 by Extension Directors and Administrators. Today, the Foundation partners with Cooperative Extension through liaison roles and a formal plan of work with the Extension Committee on Organization and Policy (ECOP) to increase system capacity while providing programmatic services, and helping Extension programs scale and investigate new methods and models for implementing programs. The Foundation provides professional development to Cooperative Extension professionals and offers exclusive services to its members. In 2020 and 2021, the Extension Foundation has awarded 85% of its direct funding back to the Cooperative Extension System, 100% of funds are used to support Cooperative Extension initiatives. 

This technology is supported in part by New Technologies for Ag Extension (funding opportunity no. USDA-NIFA-OP-010186), grant no. 2023-41595-41325 from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or the Extension Foundation. For more information, please visit You can view the terms of useat

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