For much of our early childhood, by nature, we are highly inquisitive beings. Asking questions about anything and everything is the norm. We seek and desire to learn and are generally interested in the world that surrounds us.
Then we go to school and for the most part, education generally gears us towards coming up with answers to questions given to us. Our success is based on providing the right answers to questions posed on tests, not coming up with great questions.
Then we enter the workforce and we now are dictated the answers by “higher authorities” and told what to do and who to satisfy so we can climb the corporate totem pole. All our natural inquisitive nature is rooted out of us.
Then we get into the boss role ourselves. At this point our whole success has been geared toward being the guy or gal with all the answers… and now you have to prove yourself worthy of your authority so you become the guru with all the answers. Everyone else journeys to your perch in the sky, all day, waiting in line at your door, begging for the “gotta minute?” so you can bestow your great wisdom upon them in order for them to move forward on their project.
This is where businesses stall and organizations implode.
When an organization becomes depended on the answers and blessing of The Boss.
Here’s the critical distinction I want to offer you:
- Managers give answers, leaders ask questions.
- Managers manage work, leaders lead people.
- Managers develop subordinates, leaders develop leaders.
- Managers dictate plans, leaders cast a vision.
- Managers insist on control, leaders inspire collaboration.
Managers are also accustomed to being the go-to person for answers. They’re used to giving direction and opinion. It makes them feel valued, important and reinforces their position of authority. Also, some managers prefer to deliver the answers because they think it will save precious time. Unfortunately, when managers routinely dish out the answers, they become enablers of that dysfunctional cycle, which is actually a huge time-waster. Now team members regularly seek out the manager for the solution rather than being problem-solvers. This prevents the ability to develop real solutions, stifles team member growth and ultimately limits the organization’s productivity.
Additionally when team members are used to going to the manager for answers and direction, they actually transfer the ownership of the problem from themselves to the manager. Consequently, they can then blame the manager for the goal’s shortcomings and failure. It’s no longer their fault because they didn’t provide the solution – the manager did. Assigning team members with the task of uncovering the reason for their missed goal or creating a viable solution to a problem or challenge puts the responsibility back where it ultimately belongs.
So how do you do all this?
Managers Give Answers, Leaders Ask Questions
By NOT providing answers. Instead, answer every question with a question.
Teach people to think, learn and grow… and to think for themselves.
Columbo solves his mysteries by asking many questions; as do all the great detectives – in real life as well as fiction.
As the leader of my own organizations, I know I have made the fatal mistake – which is being the guy with all the answers. All this did is create further dependency, mutated people’s ability to think for themselves, hampered the speed and pace of our productivity and crippled our growth trajectory… particularly in this fast moving, hyper-flexing and progressing marketplace we are in today.
To remedy myself of this, I strictly forbade myself from providing any answers.
With every question or inquiry I would simply respond with, “What do you think?” or “What do you suggest?”
Followed with the pivotal question “And why?”
I don’t want to just evolve their answers, I want to evolve their thinking.
The situations will change. The needed answers will change so you don’t want to just educate people on the answers, you want to evolve and grow their thinking… and the “Why?” follow along helps them do just that.
Think back to your favorite teacher, someone who really made a difference in your life. Did he or she give you all the answers? No, probably not. Did he or she make you look for the answers? Yes, probably so. Did this teacher hold you accountable for acting on your answer? Absolutely! These are the ways great leaders help people learn, cultivate the potential of those around them and enable growth.
Leadership Development – How to Grow Exceptional Leaders Learning to lead has been a challenge but teaching others to lead has been an even greater one. I’ve already pointed out several of the essential leadership qualities you must develop in your leaders if they are to succeed:
- Take 100% ownership in every situation
- Lead by example
- Be Authentic and ask questions
Beyond this, I believe in my core you have give your leaders the freedom to get their hands dirty and lead, and TRUST that they will do a good job. Here is something I have found as a leader:
People’s IQ seem to double as soon as you give them responsibility and indicate that you trust them.
Marionette No More: Drop the puppet strings. Give others more responsibility and decision-making power without micromanagement and approvals. Train, but then trust them. Let them lead.