When working with your team do you give them direction or directives? There is a marked difference between these two that will show up in the results of your team. Understanding that difference and knowing how to move towards direction will help you be more successful as a leader.
If you are giving directives you have taken on the role of dictator. This is where you tell people what they need to do to accomplish the team goals and objectives. Dictators take away creativity and initiative from their followers. People learn to blindly go where they are told to go. They will do just what they are told and nothing more. Engagement will drop to all-time lows, the team stagnates, and creativity stops. This is a path to obsolescence.
When you give directions to your team you are enabling them to find the best way forward. This creates an environment that fosters creativity, confidence and high engagement. People are excited to work for a boss who believes they can reach the goals without being micro-managed. In team meetings more and better ideas will be brought to the table resulting in new and more innovative solutions. The team will be more collaborative and will work together to get things done because they all know where they are going.
A benefit of setting direction for the team and letting them achieve the goals independently is that you will have more time to get your own work done. When you dictate every step each person takes, you are doing their job along with yours. There will not be enough hours in the day to get it all done. Free up your time by letting others solve their own problems.
To make this work you must:
- Set clear goals: Let people know what they need to accomplish and where the team is headed. Show how their goals align with the department and organization goals. Make sure everyone is clear on what is needed.
- Invite ideas: Be open to the ideas and solutions your team bring to the table. Ask people what they would do to solve a problem or get around an obstacle.
- Trust your team: As the team shows you that they can come up with solutions to problems let them act on their own ideas. Give them the freedom to make things happen without you when appropriate. Show them you trust their abilities.
- Be a sounding board: Make sure you are available to your team to work out their ideas and find the best solutions. They will still need a sounding board to make sure they cover all the bases. As they gain experience they will need less guidance.
- Have their backs: Your team needs you to be a safety net for them. Help them make good decisions and then have their backs if something goes wrong. That demonstrates your trust in them more than anything else.
Moving towards a leadership style that focuses on setting direction for the team as opposed to dictating actions will create an environment of creativity and growth. Your team will be more productive, more effective and they will grow beyond their current roles. There may be some who never manage to act independently so they may need a different role or they may need to move elsewhere. As a leader part of your job is to nurture new leaders. This is a great way to start identifying the future leaders.