In many years of supporting leaders and managers improve performance, I have observed a consistent trend in the relationship between managers and their staff; the attitude of telling instead of asking questions.
Let’s face it; telling is more fashionable than asking questions. After all, that is what bosses do, and if you’re a boss, odds are you’re in the same boat. I am not suggesting that telling someone what to do is entirely wrong. We do it a lot as parents and even mentors. The important lesson here is that ‘telling’ does not stimulate the learning and creativity required for improving performance.
Telling works the most in emergency cases, especially for doctors in the theatre, or military guys in the battlefield. The truth is that telling is cheap because it minimizes wasting of time. Nobody wants to waste all the time asking a subordinate: “What could you do now to start meeting your deadline?” when he or she could simply tell them the exact thing to do, for example. Asking questions does not make sense especially when you want to demonstrate your authority. More over, telling optimizes compliance and avoids variations and argument with the boss.
Why you should be asking questions from now
Other than in emergency cases, ‘asking questions’ is one of the best tools used by great leaders and managers to maximize team’s potential and organizational performance.
Problem is, switching from ‘telling’ to ‘asking questions’ takes time and needs learning, too. It takes time because it requires listening actively, and asking powerful questions to raise awareness or clarify understanding. Powerful questions induce creativity (or is it innovation?) and help to generate possible solutions to the issue. It is responsible for thinking outside the box, also.
Would you like to improve your staff or team’s performance, start by asking powerful questions and listening for solutions; that’s where coaching begins. Taken to a logical conclusion, being a leader or manager certainly, gives you control and keeps you in charge. You’re in charge of teaching, meaning, you should be asking powerful questions, listening actively for the answers, and supporting your team to take consistent actions. The fact remains that achieving a sustainable performance improvement comes only by taking a consistent action, and coaching is great at that.
If you have been telling your team what to do up to this moment, start taking charge by asking questions!