Last week we threw out the question “Are you a teller?” and shared some insight on how that can affect your leadership and relationships. We talk a lot about the importance of asking questions and the value curiosity brings to a conversation. It helps everyone to appreciate the perspectives of each other and gain clarity and understanding. As we live in a telling society, it can be challenging for people to make that switch from a place of telling to a place of curiosity and asking. Having said this, there are times when telling, being directive is very important. Just as we know there are various leadership styles and each leader needs to embrace more than one so they are confident and competent when dealing with a myriad of situations, similarly we need different communication styles to ensure we are effective whenever we are building relationships, seeking to see hear and understand others.
Here is the big question for so many: as leaders, how do we know when to ask and when to tell?
Here are some situations where we feel telling is the operative mode of communication to ensure success.
- Emergency/Crisis situation: When something goes very wrong, it’s not the time we want someone to ask everyone present what they think needs to happen? Instead we expect one person (a formal or informal leader) to take charge and tell everyone what to do. This directive approach is critical to ensure the situation is dealt with efficiently and safely. This is a called a directive or authoritative leadership style where the leader becomes directive by telling everyone what to do. In any crisis we look to and expect one person to become the commander who takes control of the situation and tells others what to do, ordering everyone to ensure safety.
- Transfer of knowledge: When we start a new job we want/need orientation. We expect to be provided information about what is expected of us, a transfer of information about protocols, systems, etc. We expect the knowledge will be told to us so we can then absorb it, assimilate it and then maybe become curious.
- Healthcare: When we go to a healthcare provider we expect them to ask us some questions and then to tell us what is wrong with us and tell us what to do so we feel better, recover and heal. Although this is both our expectation and that of the healthcare provider, once we have been told the required information there can be an opportunity to move toward a place of communicating so you build a thinking partnership. This is one that provides you with the necessary information through telling and supports you (through asking questions) in learning what treatment will work best for you.
- Professionals: Similar to meeting with a doctor, when you meet with a lawyer, dentist, accountant you expect once you have outlined the situation, they will tell you how to solve it. They will provide the expertise needed to give you the knowledge requested so you can solve the issue. Once again, they tell you their expertise and once this has been told to you, there is an opportunity to move towards a thinking partnership so you can work together to develop the best possible solution for you.
When you find yourself telling others what to do, how to do it or what would be best for them, PAUSE and ask yourself:
-Who is this about?
– What is the desired outcome?
– How can I support this outcome?
– What can they learn from this?
– What can YOU learn from this?
Still unsure of when to ask and when to tell? We want to hear from you and offer solutions to your communication needs.
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