Lab Manager | Run Your Lab Like a Business

Ask, Don't Tell

How do you spend most of your time at work: a) putting out fires and solving problems or b) focusing on long-term planning while supervising your self-sufficient staff? If you answered "a" then the first piece of advice is this: stop solving problems.

by Susan Fee
Register for free to listen to this article
Listen with Speechify
0:00
5:00

How do you spend most of your time at work: a) putting out fires and solving problems or b) focusing on long-term planning while supervising your self-sufficient staff? If you answered "a" then the first piece of advice is this: stop solving problems.

Coaching your staff to self-sufficiency requires that you teach them to become problem-solvers. If they rely on you for all the answers, then you are creating an energy drain for yourself, and dependency for your staff.

Instead, when an employee has a problem, ask a question to encourage critical thinking rather than providing the answer. Training may take more time upfront, but in the end you will have developed an employee who can solve problems and train others. Here are some common situations and suggestions for coaching questions.

Setting Goals: Instead of setting goals for an employee, find out what he or she wants to achieve by asking, what would you like to have happen that isn't happening now? Or, six months from now, how will your situation be different?

Supporting Organizational Goals: If an employee sets a goal that appears more self-serving than in support of the organization, build awareness by asking, how will this help or hinder your job performance? Or, how would you describe the work culture? How do you fit in?

Encourage Personal Motivation: Contrary to popular belief, money is not the best motivator. As long as a person is making a comfortable living, then the source of motivation is more personal. Discover what that is by asking, would you tell me about a time in your life when you were performing at your peak and felt totally excited, satisfied, and proud? What was that like for you? How is that different than how you feel now?

Accept Accountability: For employees who love to blame others and excuse their own behavior, ask questions that encourage accountability such as, how have you contributed to the situation? Or, what can you do differently that will influence the outcome?