Scenario:

One of your staff comes to you with a problem and asks you what they should do. And you know exactly what they should do!  How are you most likely to respond?

Truth is—most of us—being a lot more practiced at “Telling” than “Asking” are likely to simply tell them what to do.  One of my former supervisors responding to this exact scenario shared that not only would he tell them what to do, he would also feel proud that he knew the answer and hoped they would be impressed with his wisdom!    His truthfulness was refreshing!

Same Scenario:

Instead of simply telling them what to do, what are some questions you might ask them?

  • Please tell me more
  • What do you think would be the best solution?
  • What might be a couple of other options?
  • Now that you have placed several options on the table which one do you think would be best?  (don’t be surprised if they come up with another option that is really a combination of the ones they already shared)
  • Sounds like a great solution!  Now to move that from “idea” to “reality” what will need to be your first three steps?
  • What potential “roadblocks” or “hurdles” might you encounter?
  • How might you respond to each of them?
  • So when are you going to pull the trigger?
  • Summarize:  May I feed back to you what I have heard?
    • The problem is ___________
    • The solution you have chosen is ______________
    • Potential “roadblocks” and “hurdles” you might encounter are _____________
    • To respond to the “roadblocks” and “hurdles” you are going to _____________
    • Your first three steps are going to be_________________
    • And you are going to begin ______________________
    • What would you add?_______________________
  • (What additional questions would you add?)

What are the potential benefits of responding with questions?

  • Might they grow more?
  • Might it be easier for them to implement a solution they came up with?
  • Might their self-confidence grow?
  • Might they be more likely to solve the next problem they encounter without your assistance?
  • What else?

May I suggest an assignment to help you sharpen your “Leading with Questions” skills?

This week look for opportunities with Staff/Family/Friends to respond with questions, when they bring a problem to you, instead of just responding with answers.

  • As soon as possible afterwards write down your thoughts and observations of what just happened and how it went.
  • Then to help all of us sharpen our “Leading with Questions” skills, please come back here to share your experience in a comment below.

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2 thoughts on “How do you respond when one of your staff comes to you with a problem and asks you what they should do?

  1. Bob, thank you for sharing these great insights into tactics that encourage staff independent thought and self-confidence. This strategy is congruent with the third stage in Blanchard’s Situational Leadership II model in which leaders are encouraged to ‘support’ their followers, not ‘direct’ the details of their work.

    1. Bob Tiede says:

      Thanks for sharing Cathie! Please tell us more about Blanchard’s Situational Leadership II Model? Is there a link you can share?

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