Research Triangle Business Advisors
February 2012 Newsletter
Last month I sent out my
first newsletter for 2012. It’s been a couple of years since I’ve used a
newsletter to keep in touch and share some hints and tips from situations I’m
seeing in current client situations. I hope you find these short articles
thought provoking and helpful. Please feel free to contact me if you have
questions, comments or want to suggest a topic for a future article.
Bob De Contreras
by Asking Questions
Overheard in the office
“Whenever someone tells me what to do or how I should do it, I get a negative
feeling inside. I feel like why bother trying, even when I know logically they
are telling me for my own good!”
A big obstacle that gets in
the way of the workforce’s desire to do a good job is a manager telling them
what to do, telling them what their targets are and what method and equipment to
use to achieve those targets.
The result of this “telling
people what to do” is a negative impact on productivity and creativity along
with disappointing results from assignments delegated to the leader’s team. Oh…
and, another person with negative feelings telling stories in the coffee room.
What can we do?
Stop telling people what to do, and start leading by asking questions. Let’s
look at some examples:
Have you ever been disappointed with the results of an assignment you delegated
to one of your team members? They didn’t do it the way you would have? They
didn’t achieve the results you expected? Often this is because of a misalignment
on information. This is caused by the team member not knowing everything you do.
Or, it could be that you didn’t tell the team member all the information you
know that is relevant to the delegated task. Therefore the team member can’t do
as good a job as the leader, because the team member does not have the
information the leader does.
Another alternative is to
assign the task then simply ask, “…what else do you need to know to be
successful on this assignment?” This helps solve the information misalignment
problem created because the information flow was not complete. I’ve heard team
members say, “He took 10 seconds to tell me what to do as he ran to his next
meeting and I have no idea what he wants.” Slow down and ask questions to be
sure the team member has the information they need to complete the task
Ask ten people how to accomplish a specific task and you will probably get ten
different answers. So, why would a team leader think that a team member will
approach a task the same way the team leader would? After all, “there is more
than one way to skin a cat.”
The secret to success here is
to make the assignment and then ask the team member what approach alternatives
exist and which one they think is the best alternative. The answer will often
highlight the difference in your thinking vs. your team member. That answer
will help you see other questions to ask. The value of this approach is it lets
the team member feel like they are making the decisions, and allows the team
leader to participate in the decision making activity by collaborating – leading
by asking questions.
What is your first reaction when a team member tells you how they are going to
do a task and it’s not what you would do – you say, “don’t do that, do it this
way” (the way I would do it). This is a great situation for using leadership by
asking questions. First question: Did you consider any other alternatives?
Second question: Tell me what you considered – or – What are some of the other
alternatives you could consider? The first three alternatives your team member
states are the easy answers and therefore usually not the best alternatives. The
next three answers require more original thought and are often the best
approaches and may even include the team leader’s chosen approach. By
collaborating on the approaches given by the team member, the team leader’s next
questions can lead the team member to the best alternative. However, the team
members will feel like they are leading the process.
Leadership by asking
questions facilitates the team member and leader “coming together” in their
thinking on how to find success. The Dalai Lama said it best when he said,
“People take different roads seeking fulfillment and happiness. Just because
they’re not on your road doesn’t mean they’ve gotten lost.”
This short article can only
whet your appetite for leading by asking questions. Your goal is to never start
a sentence with the words, “You need to…” Instead start all your sentences
with, “how” (How would you accomplish…), or “what” (What do you think we should
do to solve…), or “why” (Why did you choose this approach over the others…).
Cary | Raleigh | Research Triangle Park |
Greensboro | North Carolina
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