Too many questions
Are you bombarded with questions?
Do people constantly ask you what they should do?
Why leaders hear too many questions?
You’ve delegated tasks rather than results, vision, and resources. Delegating tasks is too granular and suggests your need for granular involvement. Delegating tasks causes others to focus on tasks. Delegating vision along with resources frees good people to make decisions on their own.
You may hear too many questions because you don’t have clear processes and procedures. People ask too many questions when they aren’t sure what’s next. Establishing processes and procedures for repeated activities frees both leaders and employees.
You may hear too many questions because you’re a control freak. Your people are paralyzed by your need to know, control, and direct details. On a personal note, I don’t think of myself as a control freak, but I am. I mention that because you may not see your freakishness. In my opinion, leaders tend to be control freaks. Don’t toss this possibility aside without thinking it over.
You may hear too many questions because your people lack experience or need training.
You may hear too many questions because you punish rather than learn from mistake makers. Begin honoring both the lessons learned from and the persons with the courage to make mistakes. Obviously, mistakes from negligence, insubordination, or sabotage shouldn’t be honored.
Not all questions are good questions. Some questions indicate poor leadership. Are you hearing too many questions?
Why do you think leaders hear too many questions?
What should leaders do when they hear too many questions?
Do these ideas apply to families or … ?
I really like the idea of learning from mistakes and accepting them as part of working life, rather than doing enthusiastic post mortems, this helps teams be more accepting of mistakes in other teams but also makes room for greater creativity.
I try to encourage the managers I work with to use a coaching approach to tackle the issue of being asked too many questions.
Managers who reflect questions back can identify whether the issue is one of clarity, confidence or knowledge and respond appropriately.
Thanks for leaving your comment today. When others jump into the conversation others are helped.
Love the idea of reflecting questions back to the questioner. I think it helps shift responsibility and ownership to the questioner. In addition, it may be perceived as respect.
Best to you,
Too many questions may arise, because people do not know how to proceed with the assigned task and what is the importance of the assigned task, even some people do not know what and why they are assigned with these tasks.
Leaders should have more clarity in whatever task they are assigning. They should be capable of questioning themselfs and try to figure out answers for those. Once they have a high level of clarity on any task, those knowledge can be transfer to their employees tagged with the task.
Clarity on the task, answering the questions, What the task is? How to proceed with the task?(This can even be found after some discussion with employees) Importance of the task? Why its assigned to this set of people? Whome this task is targeted to?(sack holders) will minimise too many questions. Major info that needs to be communicated is priority, if in case it is missed, will tend to slow down the activity.
“Learning from mistakes” is the mantra I really admire. people who dose mistakes can only suspect or predict mistakes and correct those. A person who never failed in his life will always struggle if he faces the failure for the first time. Failure also develops courage and confidence in once mind, because he had already faced it and overcame it, and now he had the guts to handle any situation.
Your point is valid on not encouraging failures caused due to negligence, insubordination, or sabotage.
Refreshing thought, Have a lovely day Dan
Thank you for your comment.
One thing that I’m taking from it is, “ask yourself questions,” great suggestion.
If we ask ourselves the questions that others may ask of us then we’ll more effectively delegate.
I’ll add that sometimes leaving people in the dark enables them to find solutions and options you might not have considered.
Thank you for joining the LF conversation.
A Good Interesting Post! Delegating tasks with adequate authority and resources with freedom to operate are two essentials to avoid unnecessary questions related to execution. Effective leaders usually shall take care of such things and shall always keep full trust in their team members for the efficient delivery.
Sharing the vision and training people to perform are again the basic leadership traits if one would like to win the confidence of fellow employees and create a performance based culture.
Too many questions reflect the authoritative style of leadership.
Dear Dr. Asher,
It’s a pleasure seeing you today. Thanks for joining in.
Your last sentence is filled with wisdom and insight. It may be that too many questions indicates the command and control system of leading.
You can read Dr. Asher’s bio at http://leadershipfreak.wordpress.com/dr-asher
Dan, Solid reminder……………I try and employ “3 E’s”………Engage (with a compelling vision”, Equip (ensure that they have the resources required) and Empower (releasing them to perform).
Howie, Love your 3 “E’s” – Engage, Equip, Empower. Here’s my latest post that expands on the “engagement” piece.
Dan – I love your last point — if employees keep running to you, check to see if they get punishment or learning. The former keeps them running back to you for safety and the latter propels the org. forward.
Great seeing you this morning.
I read your post on employee engagement. Thanks for sharing your link to useful information. I hope others will stop over to take a look.
Kate’s bio is at: http://leadershipfreak.wordpress.com/kate-nasser
Interesting perspective Dan. Personally, as a leader, I believe that it is our job to encourage questions. It is through the questions of others that we learn the most about ourselves,our area of expertise, our teams, and our organizations.
Encouraging questions can be one of the most challenging leadership strategies since, as you point out, the nature of the questions may point out areas that we need to work on personally or organizationally. In addition, being constantly questioned can be inconvenient or even frustrating at times when we feel that we (or they) should have answers and we (or they) do not.
Questions help us identify and clarify:
* Who on the team is looking for guidance or development
* What information, data,or expertise is missing or not clearly communicated
* Where in our organizations we can improve or innovate
* When a team or a team member is ready for more authority
* How we can serve our customers better
So to me – the only time there are too many questions – is when we no longer want to look for the answers.
Thank you so much for adding value to this conversation. I respect you and your insights.
I see we agree on the idea that there comes a time in certain contexts that questions are no longer needed.
I’ve also seen leaders who were afraid of answers so they don’t ask and they don’t allow others to ask either.
Best regards to you,
Reverse delegation is a good sign that real delegation never really happened to begin with.
I’d say, when a leader starts getting too many questions, that they pause and reflect on this post to see if any of your points are what’s happening.
“Reverse delegation is a good sign that real delegation never really happened to begin with.”
I really like this phrase Scott. Very succinct!
Thanks Julia. May your week be filled with “forward delegation”! 🙂
I second Julia, love your “reverse delegation” statement. Thanks for adding value.
“…you may not see your freakishness,” is my favorite line in your post today Dan. LOL
What I get out of your post is noticing a difference in the quality of questions. “OK, I did that, what do I do next. OK and I did that, now what do I do?” Those are not the kind of questions we want to be bombarded with. It runs me ragged. I don’t have time to hold someone’s hand all the time. And I want to work with thinking individuals, not robots. So not my idea of a dream job.
There is also the time when questions are really encouraged, like doing the research and setting the stage to get things in order. Whenever we begin a project, no matter who I am working with, I ask a lot of targeted questions. It’s in the question (and perfection of the question) that you receive answers. After that foundation is set, then it’s supposed to be game time – less questions and more action. Questions that come in at that point are more for anomalies.
I also agree – sometimes we receive too many questions when leadership has been lacking. Admittedly, I’ve ended up stepping into leadership roles I did not want, because someone dropped the ball and everyone turned to me. It always begins with an overload of questions. And that’s OK, because everyone is looking for a direction – in that case, even me. In these examples, too many questions come from neglect and starvation. Once the needs for directions are fed, the overload subsides.
I think there’s also a case to be made for when leaders find that they are the ones asking “too” many questions.
Thanks for the thoughts this morning Dan!
Man oh man, you really expanded the conversation. Thank you so much.
I’d like to pick something out of your comment to highlight but I’d just repost the whole thing!
Thank you for stopping in today and joining the LF conversation.
Best to you,
Read Julia’s bio at: http://leadershipfreak.wordpress.com/julia
And thanks for the appreciation you always express Dan. 🙂 It adds to my collection of positive experiences too. As others have shared, I too look forward to reading Leadership Freak each day. Lots of great info and ideas and always a positive atmosphere. What’s not to love?
Have a great week!
Another great post, Dan. You are spot on with every piece of it – and being a control freak myself, I recognize myself in your column.
I am also a great one to help develop a system to eliminate as much confusion as possible. That has always been one of my strengths, along with collaborative brainstorming as opposed to “what next” leadership.
Thanks for tweaking the brain cells early this Monday morning. It’s a great way to start the day.
Have a great day!
It always feels good to hear a good word.
Love this statement, “What next” leadership. Boy, that fills my head with images of confusion, stress, and leaders who are really following rather than leading.
As I tell my students, “Love your mistakes, because your mistakes are the only way you will learn.”
The motto of IDEO – “Fail often in order to succeed sooner.”
A little different take on those who ask a lot of questions in the safety arena, especially the same questions over and over again, often reveals these individuals are looking for someone to point their finger at if they injury themselves or someone else.
Question asking can also be the means for delay or avoiding change.
What should leaders do when they hear too many questions?
Leaders should look for themes in the questions they are being asked and be comfortable enough to allow those asking the questions to learn how to answer them. Most leaders are not genetically wired to do this very effectively. It takes practice and being able to live with failure.
Wow, a “meaty” comment.
Thanks for the IDEO quote, I’d forgotten that.
Your take on questions is insightful. Too many questions can mean,
Who can I blame
I don’t want to to it
I think great leaders recognize patterns. That’s something John Spence points out in his wonderful book, Awesomely Simple.
Consider the alternative of ‘too many questions’…
Great list Dan of possible reasons why leaders get more than they bargained for in questions. Granular is a great visual combo in this instance and it fits with the control piece too. Training is a part. A more subtle ‘punishment’ might be ridicule, minimize, negate, or ignore questions to force people to struggle/flounder and that too is of course a power and control issue.
I think the ‘clear processes and procedure’ as a foundation are at the heart of this. Having a foundation where questions are the expectation, where alternatives are consistently considered and where inquiring minds flourish can be the hallmark of a healthy culture. AND another expectation the foundation has to be always bring solutions/options with the questions. No fair dumping your trash at my door without offering ways to clean it up…
Rather than be Mr./Ms. Fix-it-all (which does appeal to that control and immediate reinforcement drive in us all), perhaps the title is arbitrator if the team cannot truly come up with an agreement to the solution.
This is a choice of crafting a dependent or independent organization…or family.
Certainly farming many decisions out to the team makes much more sense…if that team is composed of those who collectively can assess the pluses and minuses of the issue. There is secondary benefit of strengthening teamwork, building inner bonds and of course problem solving, brainstorming, prioritizing skills in more folks.
It’s always a pleasure seeing that you have dropped in to join the conversation.
Love your clear cut analysis…”crafting a dependent or independent” organization.
As I read your comment, you reminded me that leaders aren’t always willing to make the initial investment it takes to create a team. I’m thinking of the investment in communicating the vision, training, and then letting go.
Read Doc’s bio at: http://leadershipfreak.wordpress.com/doc
Definitely a topic we all grapple with, both as leaders and as subordinates. You pinpointed several of the reasons leaders hear too many questions. Lack of clear processes and procedures is definitely one of the top reasons. Long ago, our organization’s auditors used to make “policies and procedures” one of their main audit categories, as important as the balance sheet and cash flow statements. They would say, “If a martian dropped down from outer space and had to do your job, could they do it?” With us being a small organization that started out with two staff members and grew to 35 or so, the procedural and process documentation had been loose at times.
When we had an outside consultant in, I really saw how tenacious you have to be to develop solid procedures and THEN to get buy in and THEN to revise them periodically as needs change, etc.
I once had an employee who had a habit (that seriously irritated me as a leader) of tapping on my door (I sat with my back to the door) and saying “quick question” then asking a question that necessitated a long answer and some analysis on my part. I was encouraged (required?) in management training to develop a corrective action plan for a situation that was problematic and I chose that one. My starting perspective had been, “Susie asks too many questions, too frequently.” I sat down with her, explained the facts (she asked questions throughout the day and they did not turn out to be “quick” resulting in me giving poor answers with a poor attitude). We agreed to meet for fifteen minutes a day and she promised to hold all but the seriously urgent questions for that time. Although we didn’t stay with the “fifteen minute a day” plan permanently, it did help break the cycle and completely changed my perspective to acknowledge that there may be ways to deal with the situation that were not critical of her and bought me the time I needed. At the core of that, too, was probably a lack of processes and procedures that she could consult for some of her answers.
Once again you’ve left us with a story that adds to the conversation. Thank you.
I love the idea of setting up a time to answer questions and give instruction. One thing that does is prevent interruptions. I’m reminded of the research indicating the amount of time it takes to get back on task after being interrupted.
You can read Paula’s bio at: http://leadershipfreak.wordpress.com/paula-kiger
A similar approach can help with parenting too. Especially when you work at home!
Nice to see you Paula!
Hi Julia, I wanted to tackle the parenting thing too but ran out of “thought” time!
I can imagine how working at home can shape this dynamic of question frequency vs your resources for responding. I have a lot of respect for those of you out there telecommuting and/or working from home. As for the connection between dealing with questions and parenting, we do have a real opportunity to help our children learn how to articulate the way they inquire of the adults in their lives. I used to think my son (when he was younger) was super-curious, until someone pointed out, “but he never listens to the answers to all those questions he asks” – he was in the habit of asking questions without the companion habit of processing the answers. Parenting – such fertile ground for learning lessons we need in the workplace!
As a leader, I am often the one to actually ask questions in first place.
To my team members, I might ask questions like “how do you intend to approach this problem? What kind of resources would you need to improve this and that point? Do you feel like the timeline is realistic?”. I think that asking questions is a very important part of my job, and I am glad to get answers that help me and my business.
Thanks for adding to the conversation.
Here’s what I’m taking from your comment. If leaders ask enough questions their constituents won’t have to.
Yes that’s pretty well put Dan 🙂
Wow Dan this blog got lots of buzz. I appreciate the thinking behind this writing. I have never thought my question load could be my own presentation problem. I learned much here.
Always a pleasure seeing you. And I’m encouraged by your encouraging words. Thank you very much.