Are your instructions clear, or in disguise?

Are your instructions clear, or in disguise?

One of the biggest challenges faced by my clients is dealing with conflict. They’ll take drastic steps to avoid confrontation or “difficult conversations,” even if it affects their ability to lead.

What they often fail to consider is how to prevent these uncomfortable situations from coming up in the first place!

During our coaching conversations, we’ll usually discover how they can manage the situation to avoid confusion or misunderstanding. Sometimes they need to be more assertive; often they’ll discover they haven’t been as clear as they thought.

Take a recent client conversation. As we talked, he shared how he was being more assertive giving tasks to his staff (something we’d already discussed). But as he described how he did this, he realised he’d asked a question instead of giving a clear instruction.

Instead of “I need you to do this”, he asked if it was something they wanted to do!

Instructions in disguise

In his attempt to avoid confrontation, my client had failed to give a direct instruction. Instead he ‘disguised’ it in what felt like a more friendly approach.

But, while “do you want to do this?” might feel more comfortable, it leaves the conversation open to negotiation and it’s confusing for the other person. When something is non-negotiable and you don’t make that clear, you’re potentially setting them up to fail. Doing this doesn’t enable you to share the what, why, how of the task so they know what’s expected.

Imagine if you asked them if they wanted to do something, and they decided they didn’t! Imagine discovering the report hasn’t been written 5 minutes before you need to present it to the board.

Now there’s an uncomfortable conversation to be had!

An open, honest conversation at the right time gives the other person no excuse, no “get out of jail” card. They have no opportunity to say, “you didn’t tell me to do that” as your conversation was crystal clear at the start.

As a leader, it’s your job to provide the support they need to succeed.

Giving a direct instruction may feel uncomfortable in the moment, but by overriding this discomfort and saying what needs to be said, you avoid an even more uncomfortable situation further down the line.

Confidently dealing with perceived conflict is one of the many ways my coaching clients start to flourish in their leadership role. If you’re struggling to speak up in difficult situations or say what you mean, why not book a free consultation to see how I can help?

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