How you convey information to your team is critical to effective execution.
Taking the time for conversation is very important.
Ask yourself this – if I could just get my people to do better – before it’s a performance problem, am I doing everything I could to set up success?
It is important to take the time for clarifying conversations.
Telling is one-way. There is little conversation, interpretation may vary, information is given and actions are conveyed.
In conversation, there is a two-way interaction, allowing assimilation of meaning. Information is exchanged and actions are jointly created.
Increasing participation and involvement through conversation will usually lead to commitment and ownership. Elements that are necessary to get the results you expect.
As the old Chinese Proverb says: Tell me and I’ll forget. Show me and I may remember. Involve me and I’ll understand.
This brings us to our spectrum of leadership styles. This figure lays out most of the different conversational approaches a leader might take during leading in the workplace.
The most important distinction made in this figure is the one between directive and non-directive styles.
A directive style means just that: to direct, to tell, to instruct. It is the form of education and management that we are most familiar with, and which we pick up in our earliest days of schooling.
Teacher knows and, like it or not, will tell you; you, on the other hand, sit there passively.
The assumption is that once you have been told, you will know. And if you did not get it the first time, teacher merely has to increase the decibel level (because everyone knows that there is a direct correlation between understanding and speaking volume).
There is, however, an in-built limitation in the directive approach, which is that the teacher, or the leader, has to know the answer or be able to work it out.
Given the structures and most business organisations, where there are so many people reporting to a manager with different specialisms and unique issues, that is an unrealistic proposition.
Surprisingly, the fact that a leader or manager does not know the answer does not seem to stop some of them.
A non-directive style is, again, just that: you do not direct, instruct or tell.
Think about how we learn to walk. You learn to walk through direct experience, a kind of trial and error. You stood up and had a go; you fell over; and, unconsciously, your body-mind processed the information gained from your experience so as to make the appropriate correction. I bet that 90% of you are still walking well today and that you have never had any instructions on how to do it.
Let me also tell you what did not happen when you learn to walk. A willing parent did not stand behind you, armed with the book that has been handed down through the ages, in order to issue with a series of instructions: good boy. Now put all your weight on your right leg. Okay. Let your left leg swing forward. Try to get some balance with your arms. No, stupid, your left leg! You get the picture.
Each one of us is born with an innate capacity to learn, sort of learning instinct if you will. A non-directive approach seeks to tap into that instinct so that the learner learns for himself or herself.