Leadership is about Asking, not Telling

A client emailed me last week.?? ?Deri, I can?t stop thinking about what you said in the workshop?about how leaders often talk too much, when they should just be quiet and listen instead.?? During the workshop ?Emotional Intelligence: The Leader?s Advantage? I shared with the group something that Marshall Goldsmith shared with a thousand or so of us who attending the National Speakers Association conference last year in New York.? Goldsmith is renowned as the world authority on leadership and he shared his observations from coaching leaders over the last decade.? Leaders have to ?stop adding so much value??he told us.? When a staff member brings a suggestion to the leader, the leader?s response is often to offer advice or suggestions to improve the idea.? Goldsmith says, while the leader may actually improve the quality of the idea by 20% with the extra advice, they decrease the commitment to the idea by 60%.? That idea resonated with me at the time?and clearly it resonated with my client as well.? ?I always though?that was what I was supposed to do as a leader?, my client added in her email.? ?I thought THAT was my job!?? My experience shows that she is not alone; many leaders think the reason they got where they are is because they know so much (have so many answers).? When, in fact, the best leaders are those who inspire their staff by asking lots of questions ? stimulating their thinking (over which they will have ownership ? and commitment).

I thought about this the other day when my daughter said to me ?mom, can I tell you about something that happened at school?and I don?t want any advice??? Wow, that was an ?aha? moment!? I realized that I was doing at home what I have also done as a leader?offering advice too quickly.? So, the next time a team member approaches you with an idea?ask questions, don?t tell answers.? Then, notice what happens!

By the way, this ? like any behaviour change ? will take you a while to get used to (it won?t become a new habit right away).? Go easy on yourself.? In fact, tell your team what you want to do (do more asking than telling) and ask them to keep you in check.? That way, when they really want your advice, they will let you know.? And when they don?t, you have given them permission to remind you!

Let me know how it goes.

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