Guest Post by Kirk Dondo
Leaders often feel like they must have all the answers – you reason, “I have a ‘Chief’ in my title, so I must know it all!” That’s why it often feels “lonely at the top”; you can never have all the answers, and you’re better off not trying to fake it.
Even more important, the most important thing you can do as a leader is to create more great leaders. This helps everyone – now you don’t have to know all the right answers because you have a whole team of great leaders. While at first it may feel like you are not adding value or even leading because you are not the one with “all the answers,” remember that you’re actually giving a greater gift by leading others to discover the answers for themselves.
This can be a vast shift for many leaders, who feel like they must be the sole authority on everything. But leaders who give their teams the teachings, power and responsibility to think for themselves consistently have more successful, happy teams. If you are always giving the answers you may be helping at one level but unintentionally atrophying the decision-making muscles and confidence of others. And once you take the responsibility of having all the answers off your shoulders, you’ll be much more readily able to focus on your core skills to grow the business. (And you’ll have more energy for yourself!)
The next time a team member comes to you to solve a problem, instead of giving them an answer, ask some questions instead. (Bonus: These also help when you’re trying to come up with answers to your own conundrums.)
Try one of these great questions; some of these I learned from my friend Chris Osborn, President of Coach Training Alliance, to help your team member uncover the answers for themselves.
- What is the ONE thing holding you back? Instead of feeling overwhelmed by a list of things going wrong, is there one thing you could change, “fix” or better yet predict that would positively impact everything? Sometimes it’s a person, a process, or a perspective.
- What do you need to change in order to be successful? Again, this helps you focus on what’s truly important.
- What are this person’s strengths? When dealing with an issue about a person, think about their strengths. Do they match what you need or expect from them? Is that fair? How can you change the situation so everyone can win?
- What are you not getting from… a specific person, a vendor, the project, etc.? When you think about what’s missing, it can often help clarify what’s needed.
- What bridges do you need to build, burn or repair? Building a bridge to nowhere is too often what is happening. What’s the most important thing to focus on? This breaks it down and gives you a visual to solidify the right actions
- What resources/improvements are required to meet the goals or objectives? Once you break it down, you’re able to tackle issues one by one
- What do you need from me to help you be successful? What’s the specific thing I can do to help? (If the answer is, “Solve the problem,” the problem may be within your team member. Encourage them to think about alternatives.)
- Who is the wisest person you know (in the area of discussion)? What would they tell you or say right now if they were standing here? This is one of my favorites because it helps the person frame the situation apart from themselves, imagining how someone they respect would approach the problem. When someone imagines someone else solving the problem, it becomes less personally burdensome, so they can see the problem from a different perspective.
So, what do you think? As a leader, are you more likely to give the answer or ask the questions? Which work better for you and your team?
Note from Bob: My Dad (who is now in Heaven) was one of the wisest people I knew – and I still ask, “What would my Dad do?”
Kirk Dando is a leadership and growth expert whom many executives have nicknamed the “Company Whisperer.” As a C-level executive, he walked the lonely road of leadership and worried himself to distraction, but learned a valuable lessons. He has coached thousands of leaders over the past 20 years. Today, Kirk helps leaders and their teams who are at a strategic or organizational crossroads gain peace of mind about the decisions they have to make. His bestselling book, Predictive Leadership, has helped leaders around the world predict and prepare for uninterrupted growth and success. You can connect with Kirk on his website: KirkDando.com or for speaking at BrightSightGroup.com