Posing the question teaches more powerfully than sharing an answer

Most of my friends know that I’m studying more interaction styles, communication and learning how to build better relationships. Without some rapport and trust, there is no relationship, which means we can’t grow as a team. In listening to the many excellent presenters at the Summit, talking to conference attendees and even chatting with my team, I’ve noticed a few stylistic things that could make me an even better communicator. Especially in teaching, which is the most important part of communication and leadership.

How would you tackle this particular problem?

Curiously, if you flip it around and say, “This is the solution for what we need,” you’ll end up with a massive struggle. Why? Because the implication of giving the answer is that the person you’re sharing with can’t get there on their own. What a great teacher does, instead, is pose the problem. Then solicits feedback, which encourages the listener to be engaged, to think through various scenarios and ultimately arrive at a conclusion. It could be the right or wrong one, but by engaging their mind to think through the problem, pros and cons of strategies, you’re helping them build up the neural muscle of critical thinking.

It takes practice and I’m not an expert by any stretch of the imagination. But I’ve seen the difference in engagement, in responsiveness and in delight through conversation between the two styles. A classic phrase I’ve heard is, “If I want your opinion, I’ll give it to you.” This line of thinking matches what the economics professionals call the most efficient leadership model, the, “Dictator model.” The massive shortfall of this approach is that while you gain in efficiency, you ultimately lose in the development of the team.

Even if you are an expert, try asking questions rather than making assertions. The results might surprise you. After all, leadership is a shared responsibility, right?