Leadership Strategy

The Benefits of Asking Rather Than Telling

My youngest son Dylan, hadn’t been wanting to attend Junior Kindergarden. To convince him to go, my wife and I spent time telling him the value of attending. One of the things we told him was that his friends would be there. He didn’t care. He still didn’t want to go.

Things only shifted when I asked him what he likes about school. He started listing a bunch of different things and in doing that, he also convinced himself that school is fun and that he wanted to go. Our initial approach of trying to convince with our own reasoning didn’t work at all.

The second approach we used can be applied to leaders in business. Most leaders “tell” rather than “ask” because they believe they are just too busy for a dialogue.

No one likes to be told what to do and  the patience for such behaviour has become less and less tolerable over the generations.

What can you do to shift the approach of your leaders from “tell” to “ask”?

Here are a few ideas to consider:

1. Ask your executives and other leaders for their opinions. Give them the chance to come to their own solutions.

2. Reflect upon whether you are inadvertently authorizing a “tell”, don’t “ask” for behaviour from other senior leaders. When other leaders demonstrate this undesirable behaviour, correct them on the appropriate behaviours.

3. Nurture an environment of collaboration, one in which discussion and dialogue is encouraged and enticed across all levels of the organization. Collaboration begins with dialogue as dialogue creates understanding, rapport and credibility.

Before you invest any more time in telling others what you want them to do, spend some time asking them what they think they should do.

Alternatively you can continue to operate by telling, reverting back to a militant way of leading. That’s sure to bring you the best and brightest talent, isn’t it?

In my book from McGraw Hill entitled “Operational Empowerment: Collaborate, Innovate and Engage to Beat the Competition” I discuss this misguided approach to leadership and how it is having (and will continue to have) detrimental effects on how CEOs attract and retain younger talent.

© Shawn Casemore 2015. All rights reserved.

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