Leaders Ask Questions

May 15, 2013

Leaders Ask QuestionsFew Employees Want to Be Told What to Do

Only six percent of employees wish to be told what to do by their boss, according to a survey by CO2 Partners.  The overwhelming majority, 94%, prefer to be asked questions by their supervisor. 

The directive workplace has been in decline since the 1970s.  Today it’s not about following orders, but about dialogue and effective leadership.  People have grown to expect a supportive work environment where everyone is encouraged to contribute.  Moreover, at a time when senior management is so focused on talent management there is no alternative.

Leaders Ask Questions

At least one-third of supervisors and executives who are surveyed favor inquiry as a leadership style.  Leaders don’t tell people what to do, they ask questions.  This isn’t merely an indirect way of giving orders, but real give-and-take.  Leaders realize they don’t know all the answers and must draw on the know-how of their employees.  In fact, we find based up real-time surveys of audiences made up of leaders that about 80% use this approach.

Fifteen years ago, most supervisors knew how to do their employee’s job, perhaps even better.  But today few bosses know how to do an employee’s job.  So moving from telling to asking isn’t a matter of choice.  It’s a necessity!

With respect to employees who just wish to be told what do to,  there are always people who don’t want to be challenged.  They want their work day to be consistent and as easy as possible. But, more and more, these employees are in the minority. Most employees find reward and satisfaction in dictating how they do their work. They find that questions motivate them way more than commands.

(Independent research firm Content Connections was retained by CO2 Partners and surveyed 216 employed Americans via the Internet in March 2007.)

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