Ask, Don’t Tell?

Customer relationship

Customer relationship (Photo credit: Claudio Cicali)


My friend’s team was filled with some ridiculously smart people.  They were smart with technology. They just weren’t people smart.  He

was telling me about the challenges they had working together.

I had lunch with another friend a couple of months ago.  He told me how he had learned to make people be part of the plan.  The people make the plan happen.  They might be inconvenient to work with.  But nothing happens with out them.

The team with the smart people struggle mightily with their customers.  They’re smart, they wonder why the customer doesn’t know the stuff they need to know.  What’s wrong with the customer?   Instead of trying to help their customer accomplish a goal, they try to protect their environment from the customer.

They just tell each other what needs to be done, when it will be done, what they need, why they can’t.   No one’s trying to understand what their mutual goals are or how to meet them.  No one’s asking questions.

The way my friend made people part of the plan was by asking them questions.  “Hey, I have this plan.  What do you think about it?  How would you see this best being done?”  People bought in.  He got great ideas that he wouldn’t have had without asking.  Project delivered more smoothly and earlier.  Win-win-win.

You can ask the right questions to get people to go where you want or you can tell them where to go.

When’s the last time someone told you where to go?  How did you react?  Exactly.  Tell someone where to go and they might just tell you where to go.  Not that smart.

Get people to go where you want them to.  Ask.  Don’t tell.

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