Lead by Asking Questions Instead of Providing All the Answers
By: Dennis Sherrin
There are many traits and characteristics that demonstrate how to lead and be a leader. One that I have found to be effective is developing the unique talents of individuals around me through asking questions instead of giving answers.
Leading By Asking Questions
We have an open-door policy at hb&k, which means I encourage staff of all levels to come to me with questions, problems or issues they are experiencing. But, as our team will tell you, I prefer to ask questions to provide guidance and not simply give them an answer. Through asking questions, together, we delve deeper into the issue. By the end of the meeting, my goal is that the person will come to their own solution.
You may say I should simply give the answers after all, I am the “leader”. Two things influence my choice of asking questions that help staff answer their questions themselves:
- The collective thoughts of our team are far superior to the individual capabilities I may have. If I provide my solution, it might not be the right solution for the person/team. By asking questions, I hope my team is learning to develop and trust their own solutions. Additionally, learning how others solve problems is a great lesson for me to discover how the team solves problems in a way that works for them.
- It’s my obligation to continually develop my team’s capabilities. I believe most leaders will agree with the philosophy that leading is developing others. When someone comes in with a problem they can’t solve, it can be frustrating for them to have to answer question after question. They probably just want an answer – but how do they learn and grow if answers are simply provided for them? The future of the company is in the hands of these employees, and as a leader, it is my responsibly to prepare for the future.
Asking Questions for the Future
I just returned from a meeting of the American Institute of CPAs governing council. The Council is comprised of CPAs from throughout the U.S. brought together to learn the current state and what the future looks like for our profession. Great changes are transforming our profession, which will lead to greater opportunities.
As a leader of a firm in the accounting profession, I want hb&k to thrive through the changes. I know I have an obligation to contemplate our future and help prepare for it. The best way to do that is to develop our team. There are many traits and characteristics that demonstrate how to lead and be a leader. I simply choose my approach to focus on developing the unique talents of individuals around me.
Outside of accounting, all businesses and organizations leaders have responsibilities to prepare for what lies ahead, regardless of size or industry. How are you preparing?
Why Questions Work
Questions lead to better answers and even better results. Outside of one-on-one meetings, I encourage our teams to continually ask questions for the purpose of seeking better decisions and better results.
You must be able to make decisions and make progress. I emphasize progress rather than perfection. Seeking perfection is not possible but, progress is always possible. Mastering the balance of questions and answers to decisions, action and progress may seem challenging, but it’s not when you and your team are committed to working toward a more successful future.
So, are you focused on resolving how the challenges of yesterday still affect you or do you use those experiences to have an even better future? Are you leading you company for the future? Leaders play the role of always preparing for tomorrow by using the wisdom obtained yesterday and today. Are you ready for the next big challenge?
The future is molded by the experiences of yesterday and today with an objective of being even better in the future. Focus on guiding your organization toward the future by not giving all the answers. Hartmann Blackmon & Kilgore is a consulting and accounting firm helping business transform through planning, team building and strategy. Learn more about our leaders at www.hbkcpas.net.