While most people I’ve worked with would describe me as “calm, cool and collected,” there were times when I needed to be very directive with my communication and actually give orders. I would always hold off as long as I could, to make sure I had received all the input the team wanted to give. As most leaders discover at some time in their career, it’s necessary at times to engage in a very directive style of communication. This time for creative collaboration was essential, when everyone on the team had a voice and a leadership role.
Determining when to step up and direct versus when to lay low and allow the team to negotiate the next step is a key practice of servant leadership. With practice and a bit of gut instinct any leader can develop the ability to distinguish between helping and meddling, and to predict the consequences of his or her actions.
Use the following four key practices to become powerfully effective in your direct communication:
- Build a base Spend time with your team to not only build a rapport, but to prove you can be trusted and have their best interest at heart in all types of situations.
- Listen deeply Hear everything the person or team has to say and gather all information. Don’t jump to a directive style until you have considered how your message or request may land.
- Artful interruptions Once you’ve built a base of trust and listened deeply, you’ve now created an environment of trust and can artfully interrupt a monologue or group discussion to get to the “bottom-line” and move the team or person forward. This may be in the form of a very direct request or other important message.
- Keep the goal in mind In coaching, “directing” is a technique for re-focusing or steering the person or group toward the stated goal. When you engage in a directive style, ensure it is intended to keep on track to the shared goal and is never self-serving.
The fact is that all four of these practices resemble coaching skills, and integrating coaching into your leadership tool kit can make EVERY conversation a powerful one. Learn how you can add these to your own repertoire.