Executive Coaching Tip #2

September 10, 2010 by · Leave a Comment  

Don’t Seek to Find the Right Answer,  Seek to Find the Right Question.

One of the biggest challenges facing executives and managers in business today is having the time to do all of the tasks that they face.  If you are that executive, like many of our clients, you probably find that you not only have a full workload, but a series of new tasks, and projects come in on a weekly if not daily basis.  One of the most successful ways of dealing with this constant stream of work flowing in is to delegate it appropriately, however in the end, you are still responsible for the outcome.  This leads to a critical mistake that a large percentage of managers and leaders make.  When you have delegated a task, and the person comes back to you with a question, you are typically quick to come up with the solution for your colleague.  Thinking you are being productive, intelligent, and efficient, you go back to your work only to have that person come back again with another question.  As the interruptions mount, you may start wondering why you didn’t just take care of it yourself, after all, it would have saved you time in the long run, right?

Here’s a tool from the coaching skill set:

Instead of giving the answer, allow your colleague to find the answer for themselves, by asking them a powerful question.  Next time someone walks in to ask you a question, try this series of questions.

What do you think would work here?

What are some other options?

Which one would you think is most useful right now?


Encouraging someone to find their own answer you set forth a different direction which has many benefits, including:

  • Building the confidence of your colleague
  • Encouraging independence
  • Helping them understand the underlying principles that guide the decision
  • Finding more solutions than you may have thought of yourself

If you find that the the individual answering the questions isn’t coming up with the solution, check to see that the outcomes you are looking for are specific enough for them to proceed.

By using this type of coaching in your leadership, just imagine how your group could become more effective, and help you to accomplish your goals more effectively.

What do you think?  Is it more productive to give the quick answer when you have a solution, or allow your colleague to figure it out?

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