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Ask. Don't Tell.

If you're a leader managing at least one or more persons, do you ask, or do you tell?

Wondering what I'm on about?

Often, individuals or groups of managers will perceive a problem (issue, concern etc. - call it what you want) and settle into "solutioning" said problem.

This could be related to a gamut of varying issues but when it affects subordinates, that's when we should be "asking" and often that's not the case - we begin to "tell".

On many occasions, when managers are presented with insight to a teams perspective of a situation - it can be very different from what they were expecting and can catch them off guard or even end up with a rude awakening!

Sometimes this can lead to the solution going in a completely different direction than initially intended by "tellers".

That's why, by asking the team for their opinion and insight, bodies of authority can pose the problem to the team. Then, ask for solutions from the team's perspective arming then with any additional information that can help while providing support from all management layers.

Don't resort to telling or providing the solution on how to fix the questioning item.

Get into a habit of asking those on the front line - those who are in the thick of it day in and day out. See it through their eyes.

The pre-step: Build a safe, reliable, trusting relationship and environment.

It's essential to keep in mind that teams will only feel that they are being entrusted with the opportunity to provide solutions if a relationship has been built on trust. Otherwise, its possible these front-liners may be hesitant to provide solutions if they do not feel empowered.

Outside of just the work at hand - create a space over time to make your teams feel comfortable to approach you with their suggestions and without the fear of being penalized or brushed off.

You can also try having someone impartial (not another manager!) help you create that space of trust with your teams.

It won't happen overnight but the human survival instinct picks up on genuine support from authority and seeing a repeated pattern of ideas being tried and encouraged will help in generating that space.

The key is to give those suggestions a chance and allowing for a fail fast and inspect/adapt mindset.

Allow your teams discovery space and encourage exploration. You knew these folks were smart when you hired them.

Trust them to make the best decisions for themselves.

And above all, let them see that you take the time to listen to them and DO trust them to innovate and come up with their own solutions.

Happy Teaming!

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