Less Directive

Over the weekend Pat thought a lot about the conversation with Coach Smith. As she reflected on his advice and her leadership style, she realized she’d been very directive in her approach with her team. Although Coach Smith pointed out how he asked questions during practice, it wasn’t something Pat noticed about his approach with players until that last coaching session. 

Because she’d played basketball most of her life, Pat had many other coaches besides Coach Smith. As she thought about each coach she played for she realized all of them were very directive. It was expected that when you were told what to do you would do it, no questions asked. If you didn’t, then you didn’t play. That was the formula. Those early years under that system must have overshadowed some of Coach Smith’s approach.

Tuesday morning she had her weekly team gathering. She was about 20 minutes into the meeting when it suddenly hit her – she was telling everyone what to do rather than asking. After the meeting was over she sat alone in the conference room for a few minutes to think about what transpired. Several instances came to mind and the one that stood out most happened with Ben. She’d turned to him and told him she needed the monthly learning metrics report broken down by department no later than Thursday afternoon. She took the same approach with nearly every person, telling each what she wanted and by when. While it was a little discouraging to realize she’d failed so miserably, she quickly reoriented her thoughts to the positive. That was, she’d never even thought about this before and in real time she was seeing where she was making mistakes. That gave her an opportunity to start making course corrections sooner.

Rather than address the group she decided it would be best to talk with each person individually over the next couple of days. She approached Ben first because he was the longest tenured employee. She met with him in his office rather than inviting him to her’s because there’s always a power dynamic at play based on where people meet. She wanted Ben to be as comfortable as possible so his office was the right place to talk.

She opened by saying, “Ben, I have something I want to apologize for.”

Ben, looking slightly confused, said, “What could you possibly have to apologize for?”

Pat paused, then said, “I’ve been learning an awful lot about leadership from an old friend and I see that I’ve been making a mistake.”

Ben inquired, “What’s that? I have to say, things have actually been really good the last few months. Not that they were bad before, but I think we’ve all noticed a difference in you Pat.”

Smiling, Pat went on, “That’s because of the mentoring sessions I’ve been having with my old basketball coach, Coach Smith. He’s taught me a lot about what it means to build and lead a team. And that brings me to what I want to apologize for. I’ve been very directive in my  interactions with all of you. I know nobody likes to be told what to do but that’s most of what I learned from coaches growing up.”

Ben didn’t know why Pat wanted to meet with him and was pleasantly surprised at how the conversation was unfolding. As he thought about it he knew she was right. He said, “Pat, I really appreciate you telling me this. As I mentioned earlier, the last few months working for you’ve been the best I’ve experienced. I think changing your approach to engage us more will make things even better.”

Looking him directly in the eye, Pat replied, “Thank you Ben. That means a lot to me. I’ll be having this talk with each person over the next few days. I felt it was necessary to have one-on-one conversations rather than talking to the team all at once. This allows for more personal interaction and gives me to address any individual concerns people may have.”

When she got up to leave Ben said, “Hey Pat, one more thing.”

“What’s that Ben,” she asked.

“Please tell Coach Smith thank you from me and the rest of the team,” he said with a grin which brought a smile to Pat’s face.


  1. And Now for Something Completely Different
  2. Coach’s Lesson on Liking
  3. Game Time for Pat
  4. Coach’s Lesson on Reciprocity
  5. Tis Better to Give
  6. A Lesson on Peer Pressure
  7. Putting Peer Pressure to Work at Work
  8. A Trusted Expert
  9. Becoming a Respected Leader
  10. Ask, Don’t Tell if You Want Commitment
  11. Less Directive
  12. Wins and Losses
  13. Don’t be a Downer
  14. Self-sacrifice
  15. Pay it Forward

Brian Ahearn, CPCU, CTM, CPT, CMCT

Brian Ahearn is the Chief Influence Officer at Influence PEOPLE. An author, TEDx speaker, international trainer, coach, and consultant, he’s one of only a dozen people in the world personally trained by Robert Cialdini, Ph.D., the most cited living social psychologist on the science of ethical influence.

Brian’s first book, Influence PEOPLE, was named one of the 100 Best Influence Books of All Time by BookAuthority. His follow-up, Persuasive Selling for Relationship Driven Insurance Agents, was an Amazon new release bestseller. His new book, The Influencer: Secrets to Success and Happiness, is a business parable.

Brian’s LinkedIn courses on persuasive selling and coaching have been viewed by more than 500,000 people around the world.

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