By David Blaser, Senior Consultant

As a leader, are you TELLing more than you are ASKing? Are you getting the best out of the people you lead? Are you inspiring and allowing your team to grow? Are you asking your team great questions?

One of the greatest lessons I have learned about leadership was taught to me by my father, Lorrie Blaser, a chemical engineer and an executive leader in Canada’s oil industry.

One of my father’s new and promising team members arrived at his office door, out of breath and looking very worried. “We have a problem in one of the towers on the north side of the refinery,” the man said. Dad looked at him and took some time before answering. The longer my dad paused, the more worried the man looked.

My father responded, “That sounds challenging. What solutions have you thought of?”

The man looked puzzled and said, “Nobody’s ever asked for my ideas!”

My dad responded quietly. “Well, someone’s asking. You’re a part of this team because I trust you, you have talent and knowledge. I’d like to know what you propose that we do?”

The employee shared his ideas and they had quite a lengthy discussion. At the conclusion of the discussion, my father agreed with the direction his team member had proposed and with a few reminders, the man went on about solving the problem successfully.

Years later, at my father’s retirement event, that same man spoke to the gathering. “Very early in my career, Lorrie gave me the greatest gift a manager could give an employee. The gift of his trust, appreciation, acknowledgement, and support; the reminder to think for myself and arrive with solutions when discussing challenges; the permission to trust my abilities and do the job I was hired to do. This lesson has remained with me to this day. I can’t count the number of people under my leadership who have benefitted from my experience. From all of us, from me, Lorrie, thank you.”

Here are three key areas to focus on to toward being a better Coach Leader.

  1. ASK: When you find yourself wanting to TELL and give the answer, think of a question to ASK that will allow your team member to think for themselves. Instead of instruction and direction, turn your statement into a question. Challenge your team. Let them provide solutions and then give feedback based on your wisdom and expertise.
  2. DETERMINE YOUR TEAM’S NEEDS: Identify which team members need direction and which ones need autonomy or a combination of both. The more experienced they are the less they will need direction. Lead each of your team members the way they need to be led. Choose the times you need to give counsel and the times you need to ask questions. If you have to tell, follow up with a question.
  3. USE MORE EQ THAN IQ: Focus on the true needs of your people more than your need to be heard, liked, and followed. You will create followers and trust by putting your team’s development needs high on your priority list. Great leaders surround themselves with good people and support them in their growth.

David Blaser is a senior consultant and executive coach with Feldman Daxon Partners.