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Why Asking is More Important than Telling

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Written By: Rob Steele

If all your leadership efforts involve you telling others what they should do to improve, have you considered the better results you will receive if you first asked them questions about areas for improvement?

Every coaching and leadership class or book will state that simply telling someone what to do to improve is not coaching or leadership.

Instead, I’ve found the most powerful way to achieve buy-in from employees is asking this simple question:

“Would you be open to some suggestions?”

When the employee inevitably says “yes,” you’ve opened a door for a dialogue, rather than simply sharing a monologue. This is the time to share your suggested actions for improvement.

(In my 15 years of training leaders using this method, I have never had one tell me an employee said “no.”)

After sharing your suggestions, then ask the employee which one or two of the suggested actions they would be willing to try to improve at this time.

By using this method of requesting permission, you are exhibiting a core fundamental of leadership: asking questions.

Related: Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ 7 Leadership Tips

Key Takeaway

Remember, leadership and coaching is a collaborative relationship, not a directive relationship. The more you “tell” without asking for and receiving permission, the less you are leading.

So, let me ask another question: did you notice this article opened with a question for you? Thanks for being open to some suggestions!

Keep asking, not telling.

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