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Ask more than tell 550 px

Most great leaders have a lot of experience and knowledge. They have figured out the best ways to do certain things, and they want to share that information with others because they want to help them. Those are good intentions but not always great leadership.

Our goal is to help other people to become great leaders, too. We don’t accomplish that by telling everyone how to do everything. They need to develop problem-solving abilities, try out solutions, and learn how to adjust when things don’t go as planned. Our job is to make that process as painless as possible.

In my leadership workshops on coaching employees, the participants practice by coaching each other on a real-life topic. I give the people being coached an index card and have them write “telling” on one end of it. Whenever the person coaching starts to “tell” rather than “ask,” they hold up the card.

I know from watching this exercise for more than a decade that it’s really, really difficult to ask more than tell. The telling cards get flashed pretty often. The people coaching struggle to come up with open-ended questions and often end up telling the other person what he or she needs to do to solve the issue.

We help by asking questions. Instead of immediately launching into a lecture about the right way to do a task, we want to ask some questions that will guide the person through some analysis.

Here are some possible questions to ask:

  • What do you see as the biggest challenge?
  • Have you ever faced anything like this before?
  • What would be the ideal outcome?
  • What do you think is the best way to proceed?
  •  What other factors do we need to take into account?

We become better at asking questions by practicing. One way to begin is to commit to asking at least three questions before offering any suggestions or advice. This structure helps us to get out of the habit of sending solutions immediately.

Asking three questions is a good thing to do in personal relationships, as well. One client transformed his relationship with his family by using this simple exercise.

As much as possible, we want to let people do things their way! It creates a sense of ownership, and the learning is much greater than if they are just following steps that we outline. It also increases the positivity of our relationships. The ability to create positive relationships is one of the hallmarks of great leadership.

For a little bit of fun (and free) leadership development, join 53 Leadership Challenges at KathyStoddardTorrey.com.

Want to go further with your professional development? Check out the courses offered at PositiveEffectLeadership.com.

If you are interested in taking your career to the next level quickly, contact me for a sample coaching session at KSTorrey@tapferconsulting.com. #PositiveEffectLeadership #LeadershipRules #KathySays