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Leaders: Why Asking is More Important than Telling

  • By Rob Steele
  • |
  • August 21, 2018

If all your leadership efforts involve you telling others what they should do to improve, have you considered the better results you will receive if you first asked them questions about areas for improvement?

Every coaching and leadership class or book will state that simply telling someone what to do to improve is not coaching or leadership.

Instead, I’ve found the most powerful way to achieve buy-in from employees is asking this simple question:

“Would you be open to some suggestions?”

When the employee inevitably says “yes,” you’ve opened a door for a dialogue, rather than simply sharing a monologue. This is the time to share your suggested actions for improvement.

(In my 15 years of training leaders using this method, I have never had one tell me an employee said “no.”)

After sharing your suggestions, then ask the employee which one or two of the suggested actions they would be willing to try to improve at this time.

By using this method of requesting permission, you are exhibiting a core fundamental of leadership: asking questions.

Key Takeaway

Remember, leadership and coaching is a collaborative relationship, not a directive relationship. The more you “tell” without asking for and receiving permission, the less you are leading.

So, let me ask another question: did you notice this article opened with a question for you? Thanks for being open to some suggestions!

Keep asking, not telling.

Are you just getting by or are you getting better? Get started today!

Author Bio

Robert Steele, founder and CEO of SteeleVantage, has 25 years of experience in Sales, Sales Management and Executive Leadership roles in Learning & Leadership Development for two of the largest US Retailers, a top 10 national financial institution and the world’s leader in Human Capital Management. In these roles he developed, lead and implemented a wide range of learning, sales, performance coaching, change and organizational development strategies. His proven superior problem-solving techniques along with his ability to expertly assess organizational challenges and convert ideas into sustainable, workable, measurable solutions has consistently driven results. Rob leveraged his experience in managing and leading top sales performing teams and transitioned into the financial industry where he led the transformation of an operational banking culture to a profitable sales & service culture. In addition, he also established a new sales learning and coaching department that grew a supermarket banking division from the ground up to become one of the top five most profitable supermarket banking divisions in the US banking industry. Rob’s passion and expertise in skillfully coaching those in sales, service and leadership roles over the past 20 years has directly impacted those individuals in developing successful behaviors and actions that resulted in their abilities to grow, flourish, succeed and transform organizations. Holding a B.A. in Management and Human Resource, Rob also received certifications from ATD in Instructional Design and Delivery Learning and Development, and Harvard Business School in Professional Executive Coaching. He is a channel partner of Ken Blanchard Companies and certified to deliver Situational Leadership® II.