Direct or Directing

megaphoneAs a leader are you direct in your communication or do you direct your team?  There is a world of difference between these two approaches to communicating with those around you.  One can win you trust and support; the other can win you resentment and compliance.   Both have a time and a place to be used by leaders.  So what is the difference between being direct and directing?

Being direct consists of:

  • Being clear in what you have to say.
  • Getting to the point quickly,
  • Sticking to facts and figures.
  • Making sure your point is clear and understood.
  • Often its short (bordering on abrupt).

Directing others consists of:

  • Giving orders.
  • Being closed to feedback.
  • Ensuring your agenda is the only one followed.
  • Micro-managing every step.
  • Treating others as if they cannot decide anything without you.

If you are direct in your communication the people you work with will have a clear understanding of what it is that you want done and by when.  There is clarity to your expectations.  The downfall of being direct is that you often are more focused on results and overlook the human impact of what you are communicating.  As well, because direct people are often very to the point, some of the finer details can get left out and people can end up unsure of specific items that are required.  When this is your typical style of communicating, make sure you ask questions to make sure people are clear on your expectations and ask for feedback and/or improvements.  Listen for the people oriented concerns that are brought up and address them as appropriate.  This will keep you from shifting over to the directing mode.

Directors are often micro-managers who get things done by outlining every step that must be taken.  There are no options allowed and people are not free to think on their own.   Teams with this kind of leader feel like they are part of a dictatorship.  Resentment is often high and performance regularly suffers because the team has no reason to go above and beyond because that is not what they were told to do.  If you find yourself drifting into directing others actions, stop and state the desired outcome, then ask the team how to accomplish it.  Hold back on any negative feedback.  Let them find their own way as long as the goal is met.

There are times where being direct can be overbearing so watch for the reaction of your team.  If they start to withdraw or shutdown on you, it’s time to pause and take stock in how you are sharing information.  On the other hand there are times when action must be directed.  When safety is a concern or there are very specific requirements that must be met direction is in order. 

Both styles can work for you or against you.  Working with someone who is direct in their communication can be really exciting for the team; they know what is required and where they need to go.  If there is no two way communication then it becomes more of a dictatorship which is the world of directors.   There are places where actions must be directed, and yet even then there are areas where freedom to decide can encourage and brighten the workday of your team.  Be aware of your team’s needs and your organization’s requirements to help you communicate in the best manner.

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