Tell or Ask? That is the Question.

Communication is always, and I mean ALWAYS, a top challenge among the companies we serve, and I have a hunch it’s a challenge in 99 percent of all organizations. As leaders, we have our own unique set of communication challenges, and one of those lies in how we communication with the people on our teams.

The more knowledge we gain and the more confident we are in our roles, the more comfortable we get with telling other people what to do when they ask a question like, “What do you want me to do?”

However, telling isn’t the most effective way to teach our teammates so that they’ll have a better idea what to do next time without asking (i.e. feeling empowered).

When we go into tell mode, we:

  • Assume the other person doesn’t know the answer.
  • Take an authoritarian approach.
  • Don’t take the time to teach.
  • Take on a bossy role (even if we’re not the boss).

On the other hand, when we take the time to ask questions, we:

  • Get their perspective on how they are doing in resolving the situation.
  • Create an environment of respect and learning.
  • Empower our teammates to think and learn how to make decisions.
  • Serve as the advisor instead of the teller.

If “telling” is your go-to teaching style, try asking questions instead. You’ll find over time that your teammates will learn how to make decisions like you, which is empowering to them and freeing to you.


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