Let’s get straight into this.
The more I learn, the more I realise I have so much to learn. I don’t have all the answers and you don’t have all the answers but how wonderful is life, particularly at work, that we have the opportunity to grow and help develop others. Surely, we don’t assume we have all the answers, and surely, we don’t believe we haven’t got time to ask questions. Who are we not to ask questions? Who are we to limit our employee’s growth and learning?
Many of us enjoy being leaders because we feel deeply satisfied when we help develop our staff. It is satisfying to see people in our care grow and succeed. It is motivating when we inspire those around us to contribute to organisational goals and feel valued at their place of work.
LEAD WITH QUESTIONS
In busy service environments, when frontline leaders are not always present or accessible to troubleshoot or assist, leading with questions becomes a crucial skill in order to equip and empower staff to create solutions when placed in new environments or when stretched outside of their comfort zone.
By asking questions, you are encouraging your staff to think for themselves and you are teaching them the cause-and-effect relationship of their decisions.
We forget that developing staff is a long-term game, not a short-term solution. We bark out orders, we fixate on what we have to do to get the results. However, we have to get to know our staff, to invest time in our employees, in order for them to deliver exceptional customer experiences.
When leaders direct staff they:
- teach them to become dependent on us
- limit their brain flexibility
- narrow their perspective
- encourage old patterns of thinking and behaviour.
When leaders develop staff they:
- encourage creative thinking.
- access more and better information
- allow for greater brain flexibility and form new patterns in their brains
- teach them to think for themselves
I have been mentoring a HR professional for several months now, and we have been working on the art of conversation and coaching. She is living in a typical busy, reactive HR world where everyone else’s importance is imposed upon her. She is highly frustrated with how little self-imposed time she has left at the end of the working week, to do the important, non-urgent work.
Early in our conversations, she realised that the winning formula for her was to be better at developing her peers, colleagues and sub ordinates, so that she could equip and empower them to be better decision makers and think for themselves, rather than relying so heavily on her for everything.
Over the past few months, she has been focussing on questions and preparing for conversations. The results of which are effective and sustaining, even if it is hard work.
As leaders who truly love developing staff, it is highly satisfying when we witness that ‘light bulb moment’, when their jaw drops and their eyes widen—it’s as if you actually hear a ‘ding’ go off in their head as they experience a moment of clarity.
This is what you are aiming for but it only comes when you ask instead of tell your employees what to do. If your relationship with employees is one where you direct them to complete a task, their performance will plateau and their ability to perform in your absence will diminish. The reality of service is that front-line leaders are not always present, you are not always available to give the answers; therefore, you need staff to think on their own two feet and truly shine when you leave the room.
When you ask questions, you actually lift your employees’ performance because they feel like part of the solution. They want to help you; they want to work with you. They are more likely to remember what to do and believe the importance of why they must do it.
‘Love Being in Service’
If you want to enact real change in your employees, they must first see the need for change.