Skip to content

Ask, don’t tell – a mantra for the modern day leader

February 16, 2011


I spend a lot of time working with managers in organisations and one of the questions I’m frequently asked is along the lines of …

‘How do I get the guys in the team to do what I need them to do? To make it easy I spell out what I want but they still don’t seem to get it?

It’s a good question! It’s also a good question to illustrate some of the fundamentals of building engagement with your team. Here are some of the points I try to cover in response.

First be clear on the outcome you need

Before involving your team, ask yourself whether you are absolutely clear about what outcome you’re actually aiming for. What does it looks like? Are there specific deliverables? Do you understand what your manager sees as a good outcome? If you can’t answer these questions you need to clarify them with your manager.

What’s your role in achieving this outcome?

As a leader, it’s your role to facilitate the outcome that is being sought. That doesn’t mean you have to mastermind the right solution single-handed.

Being a good leader isn’t about having all the answers. There are countless books on leadership available and I will happily wager that ‘having all the answers’ doesn’t rate in any of them.

Letting go of the need to control exactly how an outcome is be achieved can be challenging. It takes a degree of personal courage, particularly if ‘command and control’ is a management style that appears to be rewarded in your organisation.

So who can help you find the right solution?

Those that work in the environment day-in-day out, those that know the stakeholders, those that know the likely challenges and barriers that can occur. In other words, your team.

The combined knowledge and experience of your team is a fabulous asset waiting to be unlocked. And the key to unlocking it is…?

Ask your team, don’t tell them

Once you’re confident that your team understands the outcome required simply ask them ‘What are your thoughts on how we can do this?’ and see what happens.

As their leader you need to facilitate and stimulate the discussion, encourage them to ask questions, not necessarily of you, but of each other. You role is to encourage your team to think about the possibilities, develop options, anticipate the likely barriers and risks while you capture the ideas and keep the conversation on track.

Before long the ideas will flow and you can move onto the next steps of assigning actions, responsibilities and developing a plan to deliver the outcome you need. And don’t forget to celebrate and reward contributions.

Dare I say it – empowerment

‘Empowering your team’ is a much talked about but infrequently experienced term.

But by asking, not telling you are genuinely providing your team the opportunity to contribute and make a difference to the business they work in – literally empowering them.

Conversely, if you tell the team what to do you are discouraging any discretionary effort or ‘buy-in’ to the task.

If your team feels empowered, trust will grow and you’ll have no worries about engagement!

Simply remember the mantra…

 

 

 

Advertisements
Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: