Leadership Articles: TALKING LEADERSHIP


A Feature Article from Gaynor Consulting Inc.
July 2012   |   By Dan Gaynor

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The Six Qualities of Good Direction

FOR THE SUMMER MONTHS OF JUNE AND JULY I'M DIPPING into the archives to revisit and refresh some of my favourite previously published articles – for many readers these will be brand new, for longer subscribers, I hope a good refresher. This month I present an article from Oct. 2008, that offers strong practical advice on how to provide good direction.

We readily accept that it is a leader's responsibility to direct the team, but the way leaders go about this can lead to high performance or resistance and push-back. Get it wrong, as so many autocrats do and you'll discourage people and depress performance. Direct well and you will build your reputation as a strong and caring leader – you will build commitment, focus and performance. With this in mind let's look at six areas every leader can focus on to sharpen this important skill:

Team first: Good leaders always put the team first, as opposed to those who are acting in self-interest. Teams recognize when the leader is doing what is best for the team, even when it is unpopular. Always put the team first.

Seek advice: Skilled leaders seek and welcome advice. They know they make better decisions when they consider different points of view. And when you include employees among your advisors you send a powerful message that they matter. You are still in charge, but they will help you make better decisions and avoid a few mistakes if you let them. They'll support you more willingly, when you invite their participation.

Explain the why: "Do it because I told you to" just doesn't work. It's arrogant and it distances leaders from their teams. Your team won't always agree with your decision but they will appreciate the fact that you cared enough to share the reason you made it. They'll be much more likely to accept it and give it their best.

Answer questions: When people come to you with questions, they are seeking direction. Don't evade the answers like so many leaders do, it frustrates employees and it makes you appear weak. Give them an answer in a timely way or help them get to the answer. If you are unsure about what to do tell them you need to think it over and then get the advice you need from your boss, but don't stall.

Establish clear priorities: This is one of the most common mistakes I see, employees ask, "What is most important?" to which leaders reply, "Everything." Everything cannot be most important. This reply frustrates employees who only want to do the right work. "Everything" is just another form of avoidance – when you are asked about priorities make them clear.

Be clear: Finally, be clear about what you want. Set clear outcomes for each person. When you've directed, ask if there are any questions. It's one of the easiest ways to achieve clarity and improve performance.

Providing good direction is essential to building high performance relationships at work – it's part of what establishes your authority and done well it demonstrates that you care. Every little improvement you make will improve the commitment and performance you receive from your team.

Discussion questions:

  1. Take a few minutes to think about how leaders you have worked for met the test of the six qualities of good direction and the way in which shortcomings affected your work and the way you felt about the leader.
  2. Which of the six aspects of direction do you think you should focus on to improve?
  3. If other leaders report to you what steps can you take to improve the quality of the direction they provide their teams and departments?

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A Feature Article from Gaynor Consulting Inc.
July 2012   |   By Dan Gaynor


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Leader as Follower, October 2015

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Fearless Humility, August 2015

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Building a Feedback Culture, June 2015

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Confront or Avoid?, Apr. 2015

The Heart of Accountability, Mar. 2015

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Ralphie and the Strategic Approach, Dec. 2014

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