Do You Ask or Tell?

I was asked to observe a leadership team meeting to watch the dynamics and provide some insights as to why a number of people on the team did not actively get involved in the meetings.  As I watched from the back of the room I noticed that the CEO had a very unique approach in the way that he led the meeting.  

Once his direct report shared their weekly update, he would quickly tell them what they should do.  Rather than asking his people for their perspective, he fell into the old school pattern of a traditional leader that just sprays their people with information.  The impact on the meeting was very apparent. Because of this approach the message he was sending to his staff (very senior leaders I may add), was that they did not have the capability to address issues or challenges within their department.

It makes me think about how often we tell when we should be asking.  If you think back to the leaders that you may have had over your career the inspiring ones are the ones that often had an ability to engage you in conversation.  Often they would start by asking you a question that would get you to think a bit deeper, sometimes even stretching the way you think. But they did it in a way that inspired you.  

When leaders just tell their people what to do it often devalues their knowledge, skills, and experience.  Sometimes being told what to do also feels like a bit of interrogation, further disengaging people.

So remember the next time you are talking with your people think about how to start the conversation.  Start with an ‘Ask’ or a question to get them involved and draw out their ideas and then further enhance their response with your expertise to let them know you are there to support them.  If we had more leaders operating this way, I believe that team meetings would improve and the productivity and outcome of the meeting would definitely lift.  

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