How many times have you given advice… good advice… only to see it ignored?  Ever try giving relationship advice?  No one EVER takes that.  Want your kids to learn from your mistakes and avoid making them for themselves?  Ha!  Good luck with that one!  And you are probably no better.  Chances are you don’t always follow the advice others give you – but hopefully, just this once you will take my advice… and stop giving advice. 

People fundamentally need and want to figure things out for themselves. 

This is especially true when it comes to employees.  They may work for you, but that doesn’t make your advice welcome or even productive.  And that’s OK.  Coming up with ideas and solutions for themselves is the way people learn best.

It doesn’t matter how good your intentions are or how much trouble listening to your words of wisdom may save them. People learn by doing.  By falling down and standing back up again.  By thinking things through and by making mistakes.  By figuring it out for themselves.

Get out of the way!  When an employee is tasked with a problem or an assignment, it is theirs to resolve.  You should, of course, be there to guide and support them in their efforts — but they are far more likely to successfully nurture and implement a solution that they came up with themselves.  Like the old Chinese proverb says: ‘Ideas are like children, we love our own the most”.

So take that giant step back.  It can be the most difficult step to take – but it is also the most necessary.  By giving people the space and infrastructure they need to do what they do best, they will thrive.  They need room to create and produce and innovate. After all, that what you hired “these people” for in the first place?

Speaking of these “These People”…  “These People” are smart and capable.  They are loyal and hardworking.  And in many cases they know more than you.  So listen to them. If you want an employee to “think like an owner”, you must allow them the opportunity to develop their own ideas.

Sometimes you know exactly what you want.  The direction you want taken and the outcome you would like to see.  As tempting as it is to issue orders… DON’T.

Don’t tell someone what to do… ask them what they think.  Pose guiding questions and allow employees arrive at the solution and claim it as their own. Who knows… they may even improve upon what you had in mind along the way.

Make no mistake, not all advice is bad (especially this advice I am giving you here).  But if you are the one in charge, advice is for taking – not giving.  Take every opportunity to LISTEN to what your employees have to tell you.

For way too long, we have been stuck in the mindset that management should speak and employees should listen – and that thinking is as out of date as it is just plain wrong.  Solutions come from asking questions – not from telling people what to do.

One of the great problems leader face is that the more successful they become, the farther removed they are from their employees – and from the front line problems they face every day.  The people who are seeing issues and dealing with them every day are uniquely qualified to help identify the best way to solve them.

What do you need to do your job better?  What are customers telling you they need?  These are the kinds of questions that you should be asking your employees. Questions are 100% better and more appreciated than advice.  So ask away.  Question people who work for you and challenge them draw their own conclusions. Check in with them and inquire about what they think you can be doing differently or better. And remember…

Real change comes from ASKING… not TELLING.

Ask yourself…

  • Do I allow my team to draw their own conclusions?
  • How can I make my team feel more comfortable about sharing their thoughts and ideas regularly?
  • How can I support my team by asking more questions instead of giving them the answer?

Share your comments below and let others know how you handle these situations.