Teamwork is to my mind the most effective way in business to create success. Being in business is tough and there is simply no way that you can do everything by yourself. Each of us has own our brilliance and working with team members enables you to focus on your brilliance whilst letting others do theirs. The net effect is that everyone is in a state called flow, which is the state of least resistance. Then business becomes easy and fun.
But how do you get the best out of team members and inspire them to give of their best to help your business grow and be successful.? The answer is to ask better questions. So are you a teller or a questioner?
In other words, when you’re working with your team members (or outsourcers) do you tend to tell them what to do or do you engage them in a conversation by asking questions?
If you’re like most entrepreneurial leaders, chances are you’re the former. If that’s true, then my question to you is “How’s that working for you?”
My guess is it’s not working out as great as you’d like it to. In fact, I find that most entrepreneurial leaders are pretty frustrated with the people they’re “Leading.” See if any of the following statements ring true for you:
Ouch! And I fully understand those sentiments. As an entrepreneurial leader myself I understand why you want people to do what you want them to do in the way you want them to do it (after all, you are the BOSS, right? And it is YOUR company. And you do pay THE BILLS. And they do work for YOU, right?).
Furthermore, I get the whole driven part of the entrepreneurial personality. According to Talent Dynamics I have lots of dynamo energy so, by personality, I like being a teller. I like saying, as chances are you do, “Here’s what I want you to do. Now, just go do it. No questions. No debate. Just get it done EXACTLY how I told you to do it.”
But, as you well know, that approach doesn’t produce the best results.
What I learned, and hopefully you are as well, is that being a teller is a counterproductive leadership approach. Why? For a number of reasons. I’ll give you three:
Any way you add it up, being a teller, just isn’t the smartest leadership choice you or I can make if we want to grow a fast growing business or organization.
The better option, if you want to get the best from your team is to learn to connect, engage and communicate with them. Even if this isn’t your natural bent, you can learn to do this. In fact, the reason I’m writing this post today is because one of my clients said to me this week—when we were discussing an employee situation and I was role-playing out the conversation for him, “Julia, one of the things I appreciate about you is that you’re so good at asking questions. I’m not. That’s just not how I’m wired.”
To which I responded, “Thanks for the compliment, but I’m not wired that way either.” Learning to use questions to lead isn’t a natural ability for most of us, it’s an acquired skill. And it’s not that hard to do on a skill level, it’s only hard on an implementation level. So, here are a few ideas to help you get started on unleashing your inner questioner:
Yes, there is an art to asking good questions (for example, wide open questions are better for creating independent thinkers), but what’s more important is that you embrace the principle that being a questioner is a better leadership choice than being a teller. Once you do that, you’ll acquire the skill set over time through trial and error. But you’ll never get there if you don’t embrace this concept as a core leadership practice.
So do you? Do you really believe that being a leader who leads through questioning is better than being a leader who leads by telling? I hope so because the choice you make will have profound consequences for you and your company for years to come. So, choose wisely!
Remember, “If you want to get the most from your people, then you need to draw the best that is in them—out of them.”
By the way, if you’re thinking, “But asking questions sure takes a lot more time than telling,” then you probably don’t own the idea that a leader isn’t a boss, a leader is a talent developer who leverages the time, talent, treasures, resources, intellectual property and connections of their people to produce a result.
Oh, and one last thought. This practice is irrelevant to size. It doesn’t matter if you’re leading a two-person team or a two-thousand-person team, the same principle holds.
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