Giving Direction without being a Dictator

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As a leader, it is your role to give direction and provide structure to make sure your team’s vision becomes reality. To do this, you have to delegate and direct the work that is accomplished on the team. How do you deliver requests without making demands? How do you give direction without seeming or feeling dictator-like?

Deliver with Enthusiasm

Deliver the new requests with enthusiasm about how this will bring the team closer to achieving objectives or learning new things. When have you been excited to receive a request, new project, or direction from a leader? Some of the best requests start with enthusiasm from the leader through positive wording and tone. New requests are exciting and it should make the team members feel valued and purpose-full. When the leader is enthusiastic and excited to deliver the news about a new request or information, the team response often mirrors this tone. If you deliver the request with genuine excitement and happiness about the new work to be done, as opposed to a dictator-like mandate or demand, the team will respond positively as well and remain motivated.

Explain Why

In your communication of the request, always tie the request back to the overall vision and contribution of the team (your team mission, your why). If you use the Awake Leadership method and continuously communicate the team vision in terms of the new task at hand, the why will be clear.

Sometimes it may seem like giving a reason why in your request is not necessary. Why not just deliver the request? It’s their job after all. Well, if it is self-explanatory how the task is related to the overall team vision and objectives, it may not be necessary. However, it is usually worth mentioning how this project or request will help the team better move toward objectives or why it was requested – Who is it helping? How is it helping? Why is it helping the organization move forward in a positive way? Why is it needed now? This explanation of why will motivate your team and give them larger context for better execution of the task. It also doesn’t seem like the request is all about you or for you – because, it’s really not!

It’s better to spend the time and explain why than to not explain why and have your team members think that the reason is “…because I said so.” That can feel dictator-like and the team morale, confidence, and motivation will diminish over time.

Provide Structure but Leave the How to Them

When providing a request, it is very important to communicate the details around timeline and final deliverable expectations. For example, make sure to mention if the request needs to be completed that same day, that week, or within the next month (and why!). However, leave how the request is done up to the team member to figure out and design. Motivated team members are looking for a balance of structure and empowerment to develop and have freedom in discovering the best way to execute the task or project. The amount of direction needed can differ from team member to team member but as the leader, you should be empowering them to figure it out and execute it. If you provide too much information on exactly how to do it, you may as well do it yourself in many cases and it also takes the element of development out of the equation for the team member. So, communicate the structure concisely but leave the how up to them. You can always review and refine their how later on if you need to but part of being a leader is allowing the team members to navigate the discovery and development process.

Ask for Feedback

After stating the requests or new ideas, conclude the conversation or e-mail by asking for their feedback. Does the request make sense? Please let me know if you have any questions. If you don’t offer or ask, sometimes they will begin the task without thinking through if they have questions or feel like it was a dictator-like request. Always make the task or project a collaborative effort. They may have suggestions, based on their understand and knowledge that could make the request more efficient or value-adding as well.

Offer Support and Open Discussion

Every team task or project is ultimately a collaborative effort and as the leader, you should offer additional direction if they need it. At the end of your request, also ask if they want to discuss further or mention that you are open to review it with them after beginning to work on the request. Also, if it’s a request with a shorter timeline, offer help in prioritizing their current tasks to help get this request completed on time. As the leader, direction and prioritization from a higher-level can really help team members save time on prioritizing so they can spend that valuable time and focus on actually achieving the tasks.

Follow-up 

If you make a request to a team member and you don’t receive the output on time or feedback, follow-up. Depending on how short the timeline is for completion, use your best judgment to determine when and how is the best way to follow-up. If it’s something more urgent or with a shorter timeline, stopping by their desk or making a phone call are best. These approaches communicate the importance of the request and are usually taken more seriously than an e-mail or instant message. In your follow-up, always show compassion for the team member and remember that leading is about development. Remember that you are there not to enforce demands that have been placed on them but to collaborate in getting the job done optimally and learning from the experience.

Acknowledge

Last and definitely not least: After your team member has completed the request, acknowledge them! Even if it is a simple thank you or awesome, great work, thanks! This makes a huge difference. Team members are more likely to continue to stay motivated and accomplish future requests efficiently if you acknowledge that their work is contributing to the vision of the team and the organization as a whole.

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Thanks for reading! I hope these tips help and good luck in achieving your collaborative objectives. If you’re ready to begin your Awake Leadership journey, you can purchase the Awake Leadership guidebook here.

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