Volume 56, November 2005: Giving Direction

Keyzine: An E-zine for Leaders about the People Side of Business

This is a monthly electronic magazine for anyone who wants to be a better leader, coach, facilitator, or simply, to tune up their people skills. It is a complimentary publication, devoted to the next evolution of Quality Thinking.

Publisher: © Key Associates, LLC, 2005 ISSN # 1545-8873

“Organizational ambiguity leads to individual confusion.” — Peter Sholtes, The Leader’s Handbook

“What management needs to do to motivate people is to stop demotivating them.” — W. Edwards Deming

“[W]hile the captain may choose direction, the engine room drives the ship.” — Peter Block, The Empowered Manager


  • What’s Hot in Leadership
  • Maintaining Yourself as a Leader
  • Frequently Asked Questions from Leaders
  • Educational Opportunities
  • Useful Websites & Newsletters
  • Articles/Publications

What’s Hot in Leadership

  • Seeing your job as giving meaning, purpose and direction to work.
  • Recognizing that you may buy people’s hands, but never their hearts.
  • Viewing employees as authors of their own work.
  • Enhancing power by giving it away – i.e., loosen control.

Maintaining Yourself as a Leader

Organization are flailing with lack of direction and focus. A leader’s job is to sift through all of the possible activities an organization could engage in, say no to most of them, and select those priorities that are consistent with: (1) the business you are in; (2) the values and principles of your organization; and (3) the long and short term priorities you have set with your players. This is proactive, creative planning.

Daily shifting or reactive planning is dangerous. Learn to hold steady at the helm and focus on the course you have set.

Frequently Asked Questions

“I manage many people over several locations, and I can’t be there with them constantly giving direction. Ideas?”
Let’s hope you don’t have to. There are many forms of communication, and two-way is the best. Use that important face-to-face time from “Day 1,” to discuss and delineate the following (ideas from Key & Sholtes):
  • What is their job and how does it fit into the overall purpose and direction of the organization?
  • What is the best way to do that job and who defines what a “good job” is?
  • What is expected of the person and by whom? Who are the employee’s customers – internal and external?
  • What processes does the employee own or share with others? Who can make improvements in them and by what methods?
  • What feedback is available on how the processes are working, and what feedback should the employee seek from their customers?

With these questions answered, the employee should be able to direct their own work and invite your help when needed.

“Why can’t our managers motivate people?”
Because they can’t. People motivate themselves, but sometimes not in the intended direction. First, do people know the answers to the questions above? Then take a look at what may be “demotivating” people and work on removing those demotivators. Examples are:
  • Politics
  • Unclear expectations
  • Poorly designed work
  • Unfairness/Preferential treatment
  • Unnecessary rules
  • Constantly changing the program
  • Hypocrisy (not walking the talk) and dishonesty
  • Over-control
  • Being forced to do poor quality work
  • Fractured communication, particularly gossip
  • Fractured systems, e.g., delays, repeats, multiple inspections, broken equipment
  • Internal competition and we-theyism,and more …

The key motivators are intrinsic: e.g., the chance to do something important, something of quality, that you do well,or that you can learn from, with a team you like,and with degrees of creative freedom. Give choice and opportunity.

“What about delegation and giving out assignments? Isn’t that direction?”
Yes, but be sensitive to the nature of the “contract.” All relationships have an implicit social contract. If it is a “Patriarchal Contract” (Peter Block), the first tenet is that people need to submit to authority. “I say, you do.”; This takes the locus of control away from the individual, and may have the opposite effect of what we leaders desire. We may buy hands, but not hearts. If the contract is more “Entrepreneurial,” we have negotiated a relationship with the organization where the employees are responsible for their own actions and the success of their unit or project. It is a two-way agreement where the wants of both parties are expressed, and the delegation is in the form of a “request.” The boss or supervisor then becomes a consultant, ally, and teacher. The pay-off for encouraging self-expression is a high level of commitment, energy, and creative self-expression. “Want to, not have to.”


The New Look of Leadership, a course from Key Associates.

Video training program, Giving Leadership Away.

HRPaper features 100 downloadable papers on HR issues such as human motivation.

Keyzines on related topics: Keeping Customers, Motivation, Employees as Customers, and The Strategic Plan.

Useful Websites & Newsletters

Article on giving direction and other leadership skills: Giving direction.

Lead softly, but carry a big baton: Lead Softly, but Carry a Big Baton.

Motivation Tool Chest – called a tool chest. Some interesting thoughts about motivation and leadership.

Goal-setting, supervising, inspiring: Leading & Leadership.



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