Why Great Leaders Don’t Always Answer Questions

Inexperienced leaders try to answer all the questions – they view it as an opportunity to impart wisdom and solve a problem simultaneously. But great business leaders know that providing an immediate answer can be the number one barrier to their team’s growth. Stepping back and allowing a team to problem solve before asking questions is the key to enabling them to make faster progress.

A CEO coach once said: “Every successful CEO has the same weakness…adding too much value”.   Think of it this way, every time you give your people the answer you have prevented them from thinking and growing.  If your people are not are growing, and the pace of your organization slows, then your business is going to be left behind.

Fighting the kneejerk reaction to problem solve

Inexperienced leaders think that giving their people the answer is saving time and will get things done quicker.  Also, they view being a leader as having all the answers.  Great leaders know that their leadership power comes from their questions, not their answers.  You will fight the kneejerk reactive to give the answers when you remind yourself that your people will take less ownership of your answers than they would their own.  If everything is only owned by you, then you are becoming the pace of the team.

Why always providing the answer is the hallmark of an inexperienced leader

Again, it comes back to how you define what being a leader is.  Leadership is motivating and empowering your people to use their potential, both individually and collectively as a team to achieve a worthy goal.   Therefore, if you are constantly providing your people to answers, you are preventing them from using the potential that is inside them.  You can never achieve a high performing team without engaging everyone to use their potential and for the team to use their potential together.

How to inspire your team to solve more problems on their own

First, you have to change the way you get your buzz.  Before you were a leader, you got your buzz by doing.  Now, as a leader, your role is motivating and empower the doing…not doing it yourself.  You become a leader faster when you get a greater buzz seeing your people do it (and maybe even better than you used to do it!).   Therefore, when your people ask for your help, you should ask them questions to uncover the answer on their own.  If they still can’t see the answer after your questions, then share a short story or an example that might highlight a possible answer for them.  Stories and examples have a way of giving the answer, but with your people not psychologically feeling that have been told.

Check out the Reflection Questions App to help you say focused on asking versus telling.