As a parent, I find myself lecturing my teenagers with the hopes of bequeathing to them all my knowledge.
I know I should ask more questions when I am with my teens instead of espousing my ideas. With that said, some managers I have worked with have taken a similar approach. Most managers, as with parents, know they should “ask” more questions and yet…they still choose to “tell.” This approach is what some would call coaching for growth…from the outside in. When I ask managers why they continue to tell people what to do they reply “I know I should not do that”. Asking people questions for self discovery instead of telling them is not an intellectual get…it is a behavioral get. We know what to do and then we get stuck and can no-longer do what we know.
When I work with individuals who have responsibility for the performance development of others, most tell me that they know their question to statement ratio should be more on the questions and less on the statements. People know they should not text and drive, use solar powered flashlights, or wear 3-D glasses as sun glasses and yet…we have lots of proof that knowledge does not equal behavior and since one can not boss “want to” unless you “want to” change your approach you will remain stuck.
Someone taught us how to talk which means someone must also teach us how to listen and ask questions. Until we change our approach…we are stuck. Stuck filling up a glass that is already full of water only to have it spill over and never notice. What we do notice is no positive change in behavior which makes us go and tell them again. Asking questions to enable another person to self discover the answer is an approach that requires one to stay in diagnose mode and be a person of non-judgement. If you ask a noteworthy question give the person a chance to give you a noteworthy answer.
Coaching as if you have all the answers can only take you so far. When you think you have all the answers…be mindful because you have not heard all the questions. I tip my hat to all of the inquiring leaders and inquiring parents who remember one simple idea…”why tell them what you can ask them?”