I watch a lot of practice owners, managers, and veterinarians work really hard to show up with all the answers. It’s a natural impulse for a leader to want to solve all of the problems, know everything, and help people with information. Typically, though, the unintended consequence is, well, you have to have all the answers…and no one has all the answers. The expectation becomes that the team has questions for the manager, and the manager has answers for the team. The scenario plays out this way in veterinary practices everywhere, every day. However, it hinders a practice’s ability to change, grow, innovate, and thrive.
What if leaders worked to show up with questions instead of answers?
What if our job as leaders was to make people think about solutions, rather than hand out solutions? What if our goal was to build the capability to solve problems on our team, not to just solve the problems ourselves?
Typically, leaders feel like it’s faster to simply tell people what to do. The truth is, giving the answers is faster, but at the expense of building a practice team that can be successful, efficient problem-solvers. Efficient teams are inspired, empowered, and trusted to make good decisions.
Learning happens when people think about challenges, create solutions, and develop insight. Insight happens in one very specific region of the brain and when it does, it releases neurotransmitters that help us formulate a plan, consider a new approach, and tackle a new challenge. Instructions do not cause insight; questions do.
People are more committed to activities they choose for themselves rather than activities they are told to execute. Our job as leaders is to help them make choices about how they tackle a problem or approach a situation differently. If you want full engagement from your practice team, you can only get it through their choices.
Of course, there are times when we need to share information, give instructions, or provide an answer. But there are far more opportunities when we could build capability, foster learning, and create insight. Our ultimate job as leaders is to have impact on others and questions have more impact than statements. Perhaps we need to value our ability to ask great questions more than our ability to have the right answers.
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