January 9, 2015
As individuals and as leaders, we believe that it’s important to solve the problem and have the “answer”. It makes us feel smart and helpful and we think we’re doing a service. Consider that when we solve the problem, when we provide the answer, we’re implicitly saying, “I don’t think you’re capable of figuring this out”. Since it’s implicit, we are unaware of the impact on ourselves, on others or even the quality of the solution.
The impact on ourselves is that we begin to feel overburdened and stressed. As a result, we can get short-tempered and frustrated. What we fail to realize is that the more we provide the answers, the less others will even attempt to offer solutions in fear of being wrong or providing an inadequate solution.
Moreover, our solutions aren’t necessarily the best ones. As individuals, we see things from our own perspective which is limited by our experiences and preferences. I know for myself, that my solutions tend to be big picture and broad, they often lack detail and specificity that others need to fully understand them.
If we truly want to make a difference for another as a leader, colleague or friend than what we need to do is ask questions to help the person see different alternatives or aspects. Asking questions with complete curiosity and openness invites the person to explore new ideas. It allows them to make connections and gain new insights to reveal choices that weren’t visible before.
So tomorrow, before you jump to provide the answer, consider asking a question that allows the person to come to a new realization.