We think a good starting point is in the fundamentals of inquiry – the questions we ask and the way we ask these questions, along with the timing and the setting. Inquiries and well-timed questions can quite simply change the nature of our interaction, our relationship and our capacity to actively engage in development opportunities with those who work on our teams. We often encourage leaders to adopt the mantra of: “Ask more and tell less.” Sounds simple enough, right?
Many of the skills of a great coach are equally effective for a great leader – emotional intelligence, able to provide feedback, capable of creating strong working relationships, comfortable challenging the thinking of another, willing to ‘speak the truth’ when it’s most important, and the list goes on. Of course the question is which coaching skills might a leader adopt to get the best results in these all-important human interactions.
Turns out, in the fast paced world of ‘do and tell’ we live in, few leaders find themselves naturally inclined to the ‘ask’ — asking takes time and requires intention and attention; while our ‘tell’ muscle is a well- developed default that is quick, easy and readily available! The refrain of most leaders when asked about their tell-ask ratio goes something like this: “people expect me to have the answers”, or “It takes too much time to coach, so instead I find myself often telling my people what to do”, or “I’ve been in this organization for a long while and there is very little I haven’t seen – so sharing my perspective often seems like the most efficient approach to take”.
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