Your advice is not as good as you think it is

As leaders, we’ve been trained to have all the answers. However, often the best thing we can do is asking questions instead.

And it happened to me so many times, every time someone presented me with a problem I opened my mouth and share a solution. I thought it was just what management was all about. But I was wrong.

What I found out over time is that the best way to help people do their best work was not to spray my thinking into their ears. Instead, I could open up spaces in their minds and let them rework their own assumptions.

In fact, research shows that humans often learn best by asking—and answering—questions. If you want to develop your team, build leadership and strategic capacity in others, and strengthen relationships and understanding, there are few more valuable things you can do than get in the practice of offering fewer solutions and instead asking more questions.

Now, one of my current mantra at work is:

Don’t tell me it’s raining. Show me your umbrella.

I also became a much better listener. And often it turns out that the questions I ask are more powerful than the insights I can provide. Because questions are the best teaching tool we have as managers of others people.

If you are a little bit into philosophy, the ‘Socratic method’ is all about this: asking and answering questions to stimulate critical thinking and to draw out ideas and underlying presuppositions.

To a certain extent some of the most powerful words in leadership are, “I am not sure. What do you think?”

This is how we develop people into leaders: by building their capacity of asking questions, and often turning the questions they bring back on them. This is the best way to accelerate that learning.

This is also how we can be more productive in terms of impact, team empowerment and personal growth.

It’s really that simple, asking more and better questions can improve the quality of our work because we can shift our focus, change our perspective, and ultimately improve our results.

most productive year of my career in terms of impact, team empowerment and personal growth