Providing clear direction involves communicating what to do to accomplish a goal: prioritizing tasks, assigning responsibility for completion, and ensuring associates understand the standard. Although associates want and need direction, they expect challenging tasks, quality training, and adequate resources. They should have appropriate freedom of action to achieve goals. Providing clear
direction allows associates to adapt to changing circumstances through modifying plans and orders. That does not mean micro-management. Associates do not always need guidance on the details. Leader/managers need to learn when to provide detailed guidance and when to focus only on direction. It is a difficult balance best learned through experience.
Leader/managers match their teams or associates to the work required. Standard Operating
Procedures (SOPs) or job tasks define most work. As new work develops and priorities change, assignments will differ. In higher-level positions, upper management and directors have staff to
help perform these assignment and prioritization functions. Middle managers may not.
Leader/managers should provide direction from both near-term and long-term perspectives.
Near-term focus is based on critical actions that must be accomplished immediately. However, organizational goals tend to be long-term. It is easy for inexperienced leader/managers to be consumed by near-term tasks and crisis that they fail to achieve long-term goals. Some tasks become so routine and repetitive to the point of numbing the brain and killing a leader’s innovation
When tasks are difficult, adaptive leader/managers identify and account for the capabilities of the team. Some tasks will be routine and require little clarification, while others will present new challenges for the team. Often there is a tendency to repeatedly assign the same task to an associate that is knowledgeable on the task. When leaders do that, it removes any challenge and
hinders development and learning. Leaders should challenge their associates with new and exciting tasks. from time to time.
Good direction depends on understanding how tasks are progressing so the leader knows if and when to provide clarification. Most workers have a desire to demonstrate competence in their work, so leader/managers need to be careful that they do not reduce this drive.