As a leader or manager, giving strong directives is a balance of empowering, clarifying and instigating. It is the task of getting things done while also making room for suggestions. Especially in the start-up phase, it is vital to be clear but open when you give directives! This allows room for the employee’s to take ownership in the company and for you to collect insight. My tool for directives is the 1, 2, 3 Method.

Number One: This is the first step. Number Ones are your initial directive. That’s where you say, “I want X done.” Emphasize why it’s important, so that your employees are able to process appropriately as they develop their response. At the beginning of working with employees, start coaching them by ending your Number One with phrases like “What do you think, Eric?” and “Well ,what are your Number Twos, team?” I always break down the 1, 2, 3 method on an employee’s first day on the job—and sometimes even in the third interview! I want to know that I’m hiring someone who is willing to be brave and offer input.

Number Two: This is the place for your employees to respond with what they believe is the best course of action regarding that directive. They might disagree completely and then have to give a good reason why they disagree. Or perhaps they have an adjustment that they believe will better it. Number Twos need to come with explanations. Why do they think their idea is the best course of action? If they can bring you on board, then great. Let’s do it. Don’t let your pride get in the way of running a successful business. But if they are unable to, then you can give a one-sentence explanation why and move on to the Number Three.

Number Three: After you’ve heard your team’s Number Twos, it’s time to give the directive. Explain in one sentence why you’re choosing the action you’re choosing, and make it official. Be explicit about things that are important to you in how things get done. So for instance, say you’re directing an employee to start marketing for an event. Let them know the top priorities for you in how they go about that. Do you want them to keep you posted on registration? Then make sure you say that. Do you want a specific wording to be avoided? Then go ahead and say that too. Let them know your top priorities so that they are empowered to do the best job for you they can do. This prevents future needless conversations and helps things get stared on the right track.

At the Number Three level, you can take 10 seconds to encourage your employees. This needs to be kept short and brief, but can boost morale no matter the brevity. I usually say something to the effect of, “I like that plan.” or “That’s good, let’s do it.” Short and sweet, but keeps the employee invested, raises morale and initiates your redirect.

Now, depending on the respect and trust you have built with an employee, they may come back with Number Fours! That’s okay. The point is that they realize your word is final, but you respect and want to hear their input. Sometimes, that employee may have insight into implications that you are not foreseeing. That’s how we work on a team.

Join me every Monday for tips on entrepreneurship and leadership.