In my experience in helping Leaders lead – it’s the listening, not the telling that is most revealing.
Asking questions are the means by which to activate intelligence and empower others to discover their own solutions. As humans – we are far more likely to do something if we came up with the idea ourselves (or at least believe that we did!)
Every time we feed someone the answer to their question; we rob them of their opportunity to learn. It’s like the old proverb goes:
“Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.”
Telling people what to do may sometimes be a quicker solution in a busy, fast-paced environment. But this is playing a zero-sum game. What we gain in the short term, we lose in the long-run with the same types of questions coming at us over and over again.
By telling vs asking, we unwittingly create dependencies that ultimately engulf our precious time. Then we blame these same people for not taking enough initiative. Go figure!
The idea that being a leader sometimes means answering a question with a question, is directly opposed to what we typically expect of leaders.
In my head, this sounds like “being the experienced person here – aren’t I supposed to look competent and capable? Aren’t I supposed to have the answers to these questions and therefore answer them?”
No! Free yourself of the tyranny of knowledge!
Allow yourself to look like the dumbest person in the room. Create the space for all that remarkable intelligence around you to surface.
It can be challenging to make the switch and stop feeding people answers. What you don’t want to create is dependency. What you do want to create is a team of fast learners – who are challenged to discover better ways of doing things. Then you get to look amazing because you have the brightest, most engaged, most promotable team in the business. Win win!