Untangle and grow

A blog by Alison Maxwell

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Ask and never Tell?

One of the questions I am consistently asked on coaching skills programmes is if it ever ‘right’ to give answers or solutions. Surely there are times when it is right just to tell them and stop dancing round the handbags with all these questions??

This is an interesting one to tease out and doesn’t have an easy answer. Pure non-directive coaching takes a stance that we ‘ask rather than tell’ but this can be a heck of a stretch for managers who’ve spent their working lives fixing problems for others  and a) quite like doing it and b) are quite good at it. Consequently ‘Ask rather than tell’ all too often seems to get translated into ‘Ask and never Tell’ in the minds of novice coaching managers.

Managers and leaders obviously have to tell at times – it is after all their job to provide clarity, structure and direction for others. I think we do managers a disservice if they take the message from out training programmes that ask= good and tell = bad. The most helpful conversation I can facilitate therefore is the ‘when to coach and when not to’ debate, and help managers get clear on the range of their responses. Managers have complex jobs and need to be able to choicefully meet that complexity with a repertoire of responses – not just ‘ask or tell’.

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