Tired of mistakes? Ask, don’t tell.

February 9, 2021


A constant challenge I hear from my clients, is how to get their team tracking to their goals and stop having to fix their mistakes.

If you feel like this, don’t worry, it’s totally normal!

This is a challenge all successful, highly capable entrepreneurs experience when managing their team.

So, let me introduce you to a simple concept that will have you all on the same page.

Ask, don’t tell.

Yep, that’s it.

Super simple, yet super effective.

But Paula, I think you misunderstood the difficulties I am having?

Trust me, I understand. I’ll walk you through the concept.

Let’s start with a very common problem I hear from entrepreneurs, all the time.

You see something done incorrectly, a mistake made, something not done quite right – and your immediate response, is to spot it and tell your team member exactly what needs to be fixed or done differently.

Sounds logical – particularly when we are coming from a place where these tasks were once managed by us – so the fix is obvious, quick, and ‘yay, it’s sorted – quick let’s move on to the next pressing task’.

Until the next time!

A new mistake or issue, or maybe even the same one!

You quickly tell your team member what to do to fix it again. (Straight into solve it mode because you’re busy and really don’t have time for this).

However, this time your frustration increases slightly, because it’s happened again. While your team member experiences another ‘this is how it should be done’ instruction.

Take a moment to think about this ONE WAY form of communicating your expectations to your team (because how we treat one team member is how we treat them all – but that’s a whole other topic for another day!).

If we are constantly talking AT someone, what happens?

The person may –

  • Tune out
  • Doesn’t catch all the information
  • Allows their ego or emotions to take over and stops listening, through fear, shame etc.

All, whilst your frustration is rising with each occasion you spot something not done as it should have been.

There is another way.

By asking and not telling, we create a space for open communication between both parties, that allows the full picture to be seen. How and why did it happen the way it did?

So, start by asking –

“Hey, I noticed you did this, and this was the result. Can you talk me through your process?”

This open-ended questioning allows the other person to explain what their thought process was, potentially whether there were any other factors that came into play, and if the task was not fully understood by them, etc.

You are then in a position to understand their thought process and clarify any assumptions for both of you.

“Actually, what I was hoping for was more along the lines of…”

“I would prefer if we are able to do it this way, because of…”

“I may not have been as clear as I needed to be, so this is how I would like this done next time…”

By asking and not telling – you allow the space to uncover the real reason for the error.

This process allows you to get to the HEART of why it happened the way it did.

This AHA moment will then allow you to clarify your expectations and provide the solution – but one that is the right solution to prevent it happening again, because it takes into account why it happened in the first place.

Whilst asking not telling takes more time – think about the concept of time.

Time invested now, prevents time wasted fixing things again later. Or worse, replacing the person because your frustration with the mistakes has reached breaking point!

We need our team to understand what we need, how and why.

The only way to shift them from where they are, to where you want them to be…is to bring them on the journey with you.

So, don’t talk at them to solve the situation.

Talk with them. Ask, don’t tell.

This will train them to be more able to think like you from the business perspective and also to be more invested in the outcome.

So suddenly…you’ll find your time is freed up.

And I know you would all love more free time!

If you have found this tip useful for your business…join me and other successful entrepreneurs for more biz tips in my Facebook group, Savvy CEO Secrets for Entrepreneurs.


10 tips to building a team that actually drives your business dreams, profit

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