The best way to develop your team is by asking powerful questions. Yes, it’s true that this can take slightly more time than immediately telling employees what to do. But, if you don’t make the time to ask questions of your team members, you will end up being the one answering all of the questions and doing more work than necessary — a sign that your team has become dependent on you. And once that happens, you’ll never step out of that never-ending cycle unless you make the decision to change your behaviors and begin asking vs. telling.
In fact, I believe that asking instead of telling is a fundamental behavior of great leaders. In my shadowing experience, I see that the strongest leaders are those who don’t respond to queries from their staff right off the bat—that is, they don’t tell an staff member what to do and then send the employee away to implement the plan. Instead, they ask powerful questions that get team members to stop, reflect, grow, and challenge him/herself.
Remember the old adage: “Give a man a fish, and he eats for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he eats for a lifetime.” Giving your team members the “right” solutions by answering their questions is like giving them a fish for a day—it’s a shortcut that only takes care of one matter at a time. Teaching them “how to fish” by asking powerful, thought-provoking questions may take slightly longer in the short-term, but will save you a significant amount of time in the future.
Once you implement regular asking-vs-telling behavior, team members won’t keep coming back to ask you as many questions later; they’ll develop their own ability to think through challenges. This is ultimately how you empower your team members to move away from “taking orders” to “taking charge.”