How to Give Guidance Without Giving Answers

The great temptation of leadership is giving answers instead of guidance.

Experience makes answer-giving easy. But there’s an ego factor as well. It feels great to KNOW when others don’t.

At first, giving answers feels powerful, but then you wonder why people beat a path to your door – never mind that they won’t take action without your nod of approval.

Answer-giving creates dependency.

Guidance shows respect, builds confidence, and enables action.

People come to you looking for specific answers. Give them guidance instead.

#1. Guidance provides a panoramic view.

A team member asks, “Which candidate should we hire?” Guidance asks, “What types of people best meet the future needs of your team?”

A friend asks, “Should I take this new job?” Guidance asks:

  1. “What do you want to be doing five years from now?”
  2. “What types of jobs are most fulfilling?”
  3. “What are you doing when you add the most value to others?”

Follow the above exploration with, “How does this opportunity take you where you want to go?”

#2. Guidance enables thinking.

YOU do the thinking when YOU give the answer. 

Provide the panoramic view. Expect others to make specific application.

  1. “What big ideas seem most relevant to this situation?”
  2. “Now that you have some broad principles to consider, what’s your next step?”

#3. Guidance clarifies responsibility.

“Just tell me what to do,” is an attempt at giving you ownership.

Instead of giving answers, ask:

  1. “What’s keeping you from making this decision?”
  2. “What do you need from me that enables YOU to make a decision?

Provide answers when:

  1. Others are new or untrained. In this case, send them to team members.
  2. It’s a one-time situation.
  3. The house is on fire.
  4. You expect things done YOUR way.

Guidance enables growth. 

How might leaders give fewer answers and provide more guidance?

When is it better to give answers instead of guidance?