Imagine this: One of your employees comes to you with an urgent problem and you know exactly what to do. It would take you only moments to make everything right in his world again.
But should you necessarily step in and help?
Think about the results of stepping in to solve the issue (or becoming the momentary hero and saving the day.) By giving him the answer, are you really helping him? Or perhaps are you inhibiting his learning process?
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When people are forced to work through details of the problem and potential solutions, they tend to develop their understanding of how to resolve future situations. Their learning capacity is greater when they use critical thinking skills to manage their way through a problem.
Always make new mistakes. – Esther Dyson
Let Them Make Mistakes
Let’s face it: No one likes to make mistakes. A mistake can be an embarrassing blow to an ego. But what would a person learn if they were always just handed the answer? Probably not a lot.
Mistakes allow a person to learn and grow.
Mistakes help people to move forward in life by embracing the mistake and learning a valuable lesson. Think back to one of your mistakes in life. If someone had just handed you the answer, would you have learned as much from the situation?
“I am the wisest man alive, for I know one thing…that I know nothing.” –Socrates
What We Can Learn from Socrates?
Socrates gained fame for frequently engaging others in conversations, attempting to define broad ideas. During his conversations,Socrates placed himself in the position of student, which forced his respondents to act in the role of teacher. By taking the subordinate role, you can guide others toward a better understanding of the topic at hand.
Invite or allow them to teach you about the situation they are having difficulty with. By teaching you, they will increase their understanding and come closer to a resolution.
No need for the handcuffs or interrogation room, but much can be learned through a line of pointed questions. Start from the beginning and walk them through the problem they are struggling with, step-by-step. Only ask questions and don’t contribute to the resolution.
As the person answers each question, they will revisit the steps which brought them to the situation they currently face. As you facilitate this process, continue to ask questions which
will lead them to the “ah-ha moment.“
In the end they will have resolved the situation on their own by working through each step.
So What? And then what?
If you could only ask the person these questions, could you help them resolve their problem? The answer might surprise you.
The point of this line of questioning is to get to the source of the issue by digging deeper, thereby leading to the solution. In the end, as you continue to ask, “So what?” or “And then what?”, they will have determined the source of the problem they are facing. And they will gain insight into how they can benefit from it or make a change for the better.
Some of my career’s most valuable lessons have been learned by working through things on my own, and being allowed to make mistakes. Inspire your team to work through situations, permitting them to succeed on their own. Once they have worked through the situation, invite them to lead others through similar situations in this way.
In the end, this will also train them to lead others and themselves through a positive learning process.
What other ways can you inspire your team to learn? What have been your positive experiences with asking questions and not being “helpful?” Have you experienced an “ah-ha moment” because someone allowed you to discover your own solution?
Edited by Mike Weppler
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