Tom is a new supervisor who wants to do the right thing for his direct reports. When he began his leadership journey, he thought his job was to have or find the right answers. He’s beginning to understand that his real job is enabling others to learn and grow, and being the answer guy doesn’t achieve that goal.

How can Tom (or anyone) replace the habit of providing solutions with something more apt to develop his people?

Start with authenticity and respect. Be direct, honest and respectful with others. Make it clear that the goal is the greater good for the organization, its employees and its customers.

Listen carefully. Not only will you gain an accurate and insightful understanding of what is going on, you’ll show respect for your direct reports at the same time.

Summarize what you hear.  If you listened well, you’ll be able to summarize what you’ve heard in your own words, ensuring alignment and mutual understanding.

Ask powerful questions. Potent questions are open and don’t lead to any particular answer. These inquiries focus on results and impact, not simply procedure or process. Asking questions needs to be a daily commitment, with daily journaling of what works for you and others. Jot down questions that prompted expanded thinking, and refine your set of questions over time. Some might be “If you could change one thing, what would it be?” or “What seeds do we need to plant today for success in the future?” or “What do we still need to learn about this situation?” For more ideas, read this great article on the art of powerful questions.

Substituting a new habit for an enduring one is not easy. The payoff will be your people expanding their own capabilities and achieving results they didn’t realize were possible. Plus, one day you’ll overhear one of your direct reports emulating your behavior by asking a coworker an amazing question. That’s when you’ll know your leadership has made a lasting impact.

Have an amazing question that prompts new thinking and action? Share it below or message us.


Photo from AdobeStock