When a leader identifies a problem with a member of his team, be it an attitude, a technical problem or a problem in a process, good leaders don’t dive straight in to fix or solve the problem; good leaders ask and inquire first in order to understand why the problem exists so they can empower the team member to own it and be a part of the solution.

When a leader does not ask any questions first

When a leader jumps straight into an issue or problem first, without asking any questions, they are doing a number of things without even knowing it;

  • They are assuming they know why the team member is doing what they are doing, or why they have a bad attitude…
    • When we assume the why, we have judged their motives and their heart for the why flows from the heart, not the head.
  • They are therefore assuming the team member is either rebellious, resistant, incompetent or untrained. While sometimes this may be the case, it’s a dangerous assumption if you’re wrong. This is why a poor leader simply comes into the situation with a solution, an instruction or a demand, before even finding out the cause or reason for the issue. Small or large issues alike, ask why first and get your team member on side.
  • When an instruction is given without any questions first being asked, the human nature of the team member flares up and the defensive thought processes kick into gear, i.e. the walls go up because we default to protect ourselves from what appears to be something harmful or hurtful. In this situation the first thing the team member ‘hears’ is accusation, instead of a simple invitation into a conversation.
  • Now the leader has created a ‘us against them’ situation and the team member feels threatened, unloved, unappreciated and undervalued. It is now likely that this leaders instruction will fall on:
    • Deaf ears; they will tune out and not listen and so the problem remains and the team member is harder to work with
    • rebellious ears; they will hear you but intentionally ignore your instruction and so now the problem doubles
    • or resentful ears; they will follow the instruction out of duty but you have lost their loyalty, the problem is gone (at least it may seem) but the team member is discontent and disconnected, motivation is low, morale is low and productivity is low.
    • Either way, the problem is actually now much worse because it has a voice, it has arms and legs and is actively (even though sometimes passively in nature) opposed the leader simply on principal.

Good leaders ask first

When a good leader asks a question first, like, why are you doing that? Is that the way you were shown? Is there any reason why you appear to be upset today – is everything ok? They are communicating;
  • that they don’t know everything therefore won’t assume to know what is happening here – can you help me understand?
  • that they are not assuming anything wrong with the team members heart motivation
  • That they first care about the person, not just the problem.

Good leaders

  • Ask what and why and use genuine empathy.
  • Listen to the answers for the reason that lies beneath the surface
  • Repeat the ask and listen process until the problem and it’s source is rightly identified.
  • Offer assistance, education, training, help for all levels of the problem.
  • Provide the training, instruction, assistance as discussed.
  • Work out an action plan to ensure the process takes place
  • Remain available for questions or ongoing assistance

Most assumptions gives birth only to conflict.

Never assume to know why, always ask first. Human nature is bent towards protecting itself, so whenever assumptions surface, we tend to go on the defensive, assuming the worst of our accusers assumptions, thus doubling the assumption and the size of the conflict.

The only good assumption you can make is to assume the best. 

Give people; their motives, and actions, the benefit of the doubt – assume the best of them not the worst, assume they’ve not been training properly, assume they’ve got a family issue, assume they have financial pressure, assume they are stressed, assume there are more things at play causing this issue than first meets the eye – this will enable you to walk lightly and gently, empathetically and with good motives.

Ask the right questions the right way.

It’s not enough to just ask questions, imagine the boss coming in, steam coming out his ears, red in the face, ‘Why is this happening!?’ There is not empathy, no genuine concern for the team, just anger and intimidation. Yes he asked a question, but the delivery lacked compassion and meekness. No you don’t have to be weak and tread on eggshells if you’re the boss, but lead with gentle strength and your team with follow you with the most incredible loyalty.

Out of the heart the mouth speaks.

The reality is, all the information and education we have in our head goes through a filter before it comes out of our mouth. This is why two people can say the same thing yet because of who they are, the words can have completely different meanings because of tone, inflection, body language, facial expression. All these non-verbal cues are the manifesto of the filter, the heart. The words in you head, go through your heart and then come out of your mouth. Your head can lie, your heart can’t. People can read your heart by the way you speak, the color and tone of your words, the look in your eyes and the consistency in your character. The more people interact with you the more they get to know your heart and the more they begin to truly read and understand the words as they come out of your mouth.
Proverbs 4:23 – Above all else, guard your heart,
    for everything you do flows from it
Proverbs 10:11 – The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life
Luke 6:45 – A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.

It’s not enough to say the right thing.

You have to get your filter right first. The right words out of the wrong heart won’t deliver the right message. People have to know you care, so you actually have to care – you can’t fake it, they’ll know. People have to know you believe in them, so you actually have to believe in them – you can’t pretend. You head can fake it. You head can pretend. You head can lie but your heart can’t – for out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks.

Fix your filter.

The only way to fix your filter is to have heart surgery. Spend regular, consistent time with God’s Word and the Holy Spirit, ask him to divide you heart and soul with his Word, ask your father in Heaven, the Gardener (John 15:1-17), to chop off the dead branches in your life and to prune the fruitful ones. Confess you sin, repent and turn away from malice, price, lust, greed, anger, jealousy and the worship of things.
Hebrews 4:12 – For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.
Trust God to be faithful and commit to the process of having your filter fixed, He is for us not against us, He loves and desires to outwork his plan in our life, with our agreement and participation, for our good and his Glory; and this process of renewal starts by being born again (John 3:3). You need a new heart, a heart of flesh instead of a heart of stone and only God can give it to you, but you have to ask for it and you have to believe the Gospel of Jesus Christ. That’s how it starts, but the process is unending – it’s called discipleship. Rely on grace to save you, then continue to rely on the same Gospel of grace to empower you, transform you and shift you into an ever increasing life of abundance.
The same goes for good team members, a good team member needs to filter what they hear and process their leaders questions and instructions properly in order to…. [READ MORE]

Why I am quitting Social Media

The title of this post I'm sure will generate an array of mixed…