Direction, or directions?

The best executive is the one who has the sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and self-restraint enough to keep from meddling with them while they do it.
Theodore Roosevelt
1858 – 1919

Do you want to be a better manager, parent or relationship partner? If your relationships with your employees, co-workers, friends or relatives aren’t what you’d like, here’s a good way to improve: ask yourself this question: “Do I give direction, or directions?”

That question may sound too simple or too subtle, but the answer could lead to a huge change in the way you relate to the people in your life.

There’s a significant difference between giving direction and giving directions. Giving direction is defining the big picture, the desired results, the ultimate goal. Giving directions, on the other hand, is telling people what to do and how to do it.

No one likes to be told what to do. In fact, we generally resent being told what to do. When we give someone directions, we aren’t treating them with respect; we imply that they need to be told exactly what to do and how to do it. When we give them direction, we tell them what needs to be done but not necessarily how to do it, indicating that we trust them to determine the best approach.

Giving direction lets them know the outcome we desire while allowing the person doing the task(s) to determine the means of achieving the goal. What might be the best approach for you might not work as well for another person — and dictating how a person should do a task robs them of the chance to use their abilities and initiative to find the optimal solution.

As humans, we seek autonomy, mastery and purpose: we want to feel in control of our actions; we strive to continually find better ways to do our work; and we want to feel that what we do is serving some greater purpose. Giving someone direction satisfies these basic drives, while giving them directions robs them of all three.

If you want to improve your relationships, take a good look at how you communicate; be sure you’re giving direction rather than directions.

We are born to be players, not pawns.
Daniel Pink

Copyright © 2014 John Chancellor


Direction, or directions? — 1 Comment

  1. hi john, so true. this is the problem with big corporate and the need to have minions doing virtually the same repetitive things.