Why you need to stop telling them what to do


You know that it’s easier and faster to just tell your employees what to do rather than have a long conversation or to “train” them. You need something done, you tell them what you need, and they’re off, doing exactly what you want, the way you want it done. Quick and simple!

Yet you feel frustrated. Every time a new project comes along or something new needs to get done, there they are, calling, sending email, knocking on your door to get your directions.

You recently got this nice promotion, a “senior executive” in charge of a large and complex organization. You’re still in the weeks, yet expected to create a vision and a strategy. Yet you’re still working with tactics. You can’t seem to lift your thoughts out of the details of day to day work to see the bigger picture.

You might fail if you don’t figure this out and think broader.

There are some very good reasons why you need to get out of the minutiae of daily work.

It will set you free: You’ll free up your time and brain-space; you’ll actually be able to think, not just react. All of those interruptions and the discussions about minutia have trained your brain to stay in the weeds of daily work (by the way, the brain is particularly well suited to continuing to do things the way it has done them before. This conserves mind-energy for other things). When you stop wading in the weeds, your brain can fill the void with a grand vision for your organization.

It will set them free: You’ve come to believe that those who report to you are (choose one): inept, not capable, less-than-bright, or down-right stupid. You ought to fire the whole lot. Well, you’re probably wrong. If you could shift your thinking just a little bit, you might find that they are completely whole, capable, smart, competent human beings who know what needs to done. You’ve somehow managed to convince them that you are the only one who has all the knowledge needed for them to complete their work. Using a different way to communicate, you’ll help them to think for themselves. They’ll learn, become creative, and stop being dependent on you. They’ll be free.

So be a guide instead. Think of yourself in that way when they come to get your answers. Ask them what they think they need to do and how they’ll do it. Listen to what they have to say. Let go of your need to have things done just so. Encourage them, thank them, let them know how much you count on them to do the job right (but their way, not yours).

You’ll be surprised at how smart and capable they are. Happy broad-picture thinking!

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Mary Jo Asmus is the founder and President of Aspire Collaborative Services LLC, an executive coach, writer, internationally recognized thought leader, and a consultant who partners with organizations of all kinds to develop and administer coaching programs. She has “walked in your shoes” as a former leader in a Fortune company.


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