stop to getting more information or thinking about what's possible to solve the real problem at hand.
This reminds me of a time when I was doing some consulting work at a company that had a sales manager whose quick answer to the problem of non-performing team members was to fire them. Ironically, her goals were to improve her management skills, lower turnover, and build effective teams, but her termination strategy did just the opposite. The CEO and other management team members were at their wit's end and asked me to coach this sales manager, who was a high-performing and talented member of the team. After question-and-answer sessions with the sales manager and key team members, we agreed that no one could be fired for 90 days to allow for time to ask more questions and investigate team performance issues.
This sales manager was willing to try something new because she was willing to acknowledge that her job was too big to do everything herself! I coached her to talk to everyone on her team about their performance and listen to their feedback. She was surprised to hear that her management style was part of the problem. It was a "my way or the highway" approach. When she saw the impact on her team, she was able to catch herself making demands and notice how that it got in the way of meaningful communication. The light of awareness switched on, and she paused her favorite tactic of steamrolling to ask questions. She created space for possibility and her team members' input, and by doing this her group was able to solve real problems and be more successful.
I know it's challenging to pull back and ask questions when you’re attached to your answer or your desire to get into action fast and put a problematic situation behind you. If you’re going to give an answer instead of asking the rhetorical, “Are there any questions?” you can pause and ask “what’s missing” from any solution you offer. The power of that well-aimed question can reveal objections that need to be addressed. Then when you ask for commitment, you get the real deal instead of an obligatory yes.
I love the saying that it's not ignorance that blocks progress; it's the illusion of knowledge. If you think you already know the answer, you’ll find that the rush to action shuts down the true process of problem-solving. The ability to pause and investigate with questions and the space to be questioned will increase team confidence, open communication, and the problem-solving skills needed in successful management practices.
What can you ask today?
May your day be peaceful and productive.
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Paulette Sun Davis