Ask, Don’t Tell

AskingQuestionsOne of the most important goals of a coach and leader is to help team members learn and grow. How you ask questions will make a difference.

The questions a coach, who is seeking to develop team members, asks are fundamental to success. There are times when providing guidance and telling information is the right thing to do – something is new and there are basic learning needs. However, if the intention is development how you ask the question is key. In this situation a coach reframes his/her thinking from “What information or answers do I need?” to “How can I help my team members think for themselves and discover their own answers?”  This moves away from the telling mode into the asking and listening mode.

Most of us understand the difference between open- and closed-ended questions. It is obvious that open-ended questions help to elicit the thoughts of others. Asking the right open-ended questions comes into play. Consider the subtle differences between these two open-ended questions:

What do you feel would make a difference to get the result you want?

How would it be if you did …………?

While both questions allow the individuals to share their thoughts, the second question is directive. It is really a disguised way of telling. Does the question show true willingness to listen to the ideas of others? Who holds the power in the relationship and where is the trust level? The second question does not signal that others’ ideas or inputs are welcomed and valued.

In her book Conversational Intelligence, Judith Glaser describes three types of conversations:

Level One – Transactional – Tell and Ask. These interactions do not encourage sharing of thoughts and ideas. Such conversations protect your ideas and thoughts.

Level Two – Positional – Advocate and Inquire. This style is advocating for what you believe is the right way; there is the potential to use more directive questions.

Level Three – Transformational – Share and Discover. These conversations involve partnering. Trust levels will be high. This is the “Ask Don’t Tell” model that develops individuals on your team.

Ask yourself:

  1. Do you want to develop your team?
  2. Are you aware of how you currently ask questions? Do you use a more directive style?
  3. Are you willing to make the necessary changes?

The development of your team to reach their potential requires that you take the time to think and plan your questions. The right question helps individuals to discover their own solutions. It will be well worth the investment of time. Ask Don’t Tell.

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March 1, 2017

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