The Gifts of Leadership: How to Help People Find Their Own Answers

The week before Christmas brings gift-giving to mind. That’s why I’ve brought your attention to gifts leaders give others.

I’ve written about the gift of advice and how to give it skillfully. But not everyone wants advice.

How to help people find their own answers:

#1. Get them doing something.

Some people love talking about problems like hogs love eating slop.

A little doing is better than a lot of talking.

You might practice the Five Whys, but if you aren’t sure of root causes, just try something. The question is,

“What would you like to try that might make things better?”

A band aid solution is one step toward a permanent cure.

We find more solutions by doing than talking.

#2. Help them overcome self-doubt.

Self-doubt is safe.

Doubt is an excuse to keep doing the same thing.

It’s a gift when you help people overcome doubt so they can learn as they go.

Quantify doubt. Ask, “On a scale of one to ten, will this plan of action make things worse?” A ten means the barn will burn down if they move forward.

Don’t ask doubters if their plan will make things better.

Ask the question in the negative. “Will this make things worse?” addresses the doubt that holds them back.

If it won’t make things worse, try it.

Take action armed with reasonable certainty that you won’t make problems worse.

Note: When issues are big and public, expect higher certainty before moving forward.

#3. Fuel momentum.

Set a short timeline to reflect on actions taken and adapt future plans.

You might say, “Let’s get together next week to discuss what you learned and adapt your strategy.”

This approach lets people know that progress – not perfect solutions – is the path forward.

How might leaders help people find their own answers?

What advantages do you see in helping people find their own answers?