Become a Better Manager Part 3: Provide Clear Direction

Become a Better Manager Part 3: Provide Clear Direction

As a manager, it’s your job to make sure your teams are moving forward at the right speed and in the right direction. If they’re wandering, confused, or headed over a cliff, it’s not because they misunderstood your instructions; it’s because you didn’t communicate those instructions clearly. Once you’re established in a leadership role, all communication mistakes from that point forward are yours alone; if you mess up, it’s your fault. If your teams mess up, it’s your fault. So what steps can you take to make sure this doesn’t happen?

First, set an example.

Before you try to shape your teams and bring them in line, police your own behavior, performance, and listening skills. Are you in control of your priorities? Are you in control of your emotions? Do you maintain balance between your work and personal life? Can you switch gears and bounce back from setbacks quickly? In other words, at any given moment during the day, do you know exactly what you’re doing and why you’re doing it? If you don’t, they probably don’t either.

When you ask for something, think first.

Instead of impulsively ordering your teams around or sending them on a mission after your latest whim or fleeting need, pause. Recognize that when you tell someone what to do in a professional setting, you’re exercising a sacred trust. Can your teams trust you to deploy them only in ways that serve the best interest of the company and its stakeholders? Before you send someone out for coffee or place someone as the head of a newly created department, make sure your reasoning is sound and your long-term goals make sense.

Don’t push and pull at the same time.

Never encourage your teams to take a risk and then punish them when the risk doesn’t pan out. Never ask them to do something and then yell at them for doing it. Walk the walk, talk the talk, and don’t forget exactly what you requested and how, when, and under what circumstances you delivered the request.

If you don’t explain how or why, expect them to fill in the gaps.

If you ask for something to be done, but don’t explain how to do it, you can expect your employee to adopt whatever methods she sees fit. If you don’t like her chosen methods, blame yourself. The same applies to larger goals. If you give an order but don’t explain why your employee may build a road to a different town than the one you had in mind. The more information you share, the more likely you are to get what you want.

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