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Monica Wofford is a leadership development expert and professional speaker. She founded Contagious Companies as a training firm and it remains the firm where leaders go for training and development. For more information, go to www.ContagiousCompanies.com or call 1-866-382-0121.

Does what you direct come across in a way that is easy to decipher, easier to do, and easy to use to make a decision…or NOT?

There’s the brain drain that comes up in generation training and then there’s the brain drain referred to by Robert Cialdini in his revised edition of Influence. The book Influence should be required reading for all those who lead because leaders who wish to motivate and persuade employees to do their job, often stand in their own way, failing to effectively influence members of the team. It is the leader who makes it more difficult for employees by making their instructions hard to understand, confusing to interpret, or too challenging to untangle for whom this Monday Moment was written. Review the ways in which you or your boss can prevent this type of brain drain and see if there are any needed changes.

Make it Easy to Do

In Influence, Cialdini refers to brain drain by using this phrase to describe anything that makes us think too much before taking action. If you want to persuade or influence someone, make what you want them to do, easy to do. Leaders who complicate their instructions fail in this area and cause employees to freeze in their tracks, literally unable to act. Check your instructions and direction with these guiding questions:

  • Is what you’re asking clear to more than just you?
  • Is the employee only nodding or talking and expanding on what you’ve asked them to do?
  • If you explained your request to someone outside your team or company, would they get it easily?

Make it Easy to Decipher

A leader who confuses the team with the instructions they’re using to lead, is shooting him or herself in the foot. A brain drain arises when too much thought must be used to decipher or decide or determine exactly what you’re asking them to do so break it down and simplify. Some visionary leaders will commit this brain drain offense when what is in their head has not yet made it out their mouth, but more commonly, leaders of all types do this when they forget what they have or have not already said. In this case and most commonly, leaders moving at a fast speed will dole out action items, delegating this and that, while forgetting to help the employee prioritize what comes next. This act creates confusion and causes the employee to decipher what comes first. In most cases, your items will get done in the order they arrived on the list and this may not be what you’ve requested. As such, ensure you’re directions and prioritization is easy to decipher.

Make it Easy to Decide

A speaker I heard recently on the topic of marketing mentioned that men find it easiest to choose among three choices, while women enjoy a mere plethora of options from which to choose. The examples she gave were an ad for tires, with three pictures shown and an ad for clothing with ten pages of garments. This little nugget of information relates to leadership. Who is your target audience? Is it the male supervisor to whom you’re giving a list of six things or the female front line employee with whom you’re being succinct? In addition, employees will freeze in the face of ambiguity, so if you wish for them to act or pick one from those you’ve given them to choose, consider this formula. Also consider what you’re asking them to do. A leader who wishes to instill initiative or empower a person may opt to provide choices. This works well for those non-linear employees, but is less effective for those who just need clear directions. The more laid back, even keeled, order taker persona will struggle with having to make a choice for fear that you won’t like the one they take. The more abstract, gregarious thinker and those driven to succeed will appreciate the control of being able to make a choice, as it gives them control over their own destiny, so to speak.

Perhaps our next online learning event might well be titled “How to Give Clear Directions”, but until then, examine your communication with those you lead to ensure that you’re not the one keeping them from succeeding. It’s not fair to complain about their performance if you’re the one creating the brain drain and acting as their primary hindrance.

I’m Monica Wofford and that’s your Monday Moment. Have a great week, an even better Monday, and of course, stay contagious!

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