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Aug 2019

To be better leaders, we have to stop telling people what to do

This week, I had the pleasure of speaking at Turing Fest on the topic of Avoiding Feedback Failure.

One of the areas I covered focused around specifically that:

Telling people what to do, will only work if it already fits with our existing wiring. – David Rock

Our brains are a network of unimaginable complexity, trillions of constantly changing neurons creates an almost infinite way of encoding information. Our wiring is so complex, research shows, our brains are as unique to us as our fingerprints. 

With an almost infinite way to process and store information and entirely unique hardwiring driving our automatic preconceptions, biases and reactions, it is no wonder that things we are told and advice we are given, may not quite make sense to us.

Whilst it is good as individuals to actively seek out advice, as leaders, it is not always the best strategy for us to give it.

For many of professions, performance in the workplace is no longer a simple linear  process of input and output, without one process checklist way of hitting a goal. There are often multiple solutions to the same problem and our requirement of employees is often one of finding any solution to a range of problems. According to a World Economic Forum report, the skills that will be most valuable in 2020 are; complex problem solving, critical thinking, creativity, people management and coordinating with others. These are not skills that are best nurtured through being told what to do. We can not tell someone how to think critically or solve problems, that defeats the object.

What is more effective, for us as leaders, is to help our team define the solution that makes the most sense to them.

In order to do this, we need to get better at guiding people to identify their own solutions to their own problems, and we do this, not by saying “In this situation I would do x” but by saying “What ways do you think you have to solve the problem?”. 

Learning to ask effective questions takes skill, practice and experience, though I have collated a list of questions that can bring about incredibly powerful results for you to try. You can find them here.

EFFECTIVE QUESTIONS

Let us know what you think!

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