6 principles of progress-focused directing

Progress-focused directing is an approach to make expectations clear to someone. This is done in such a way that the person understands what is needed to do and why it is necessary to do. The person who directs takes the other person's perspective seriously, even if he or she raises other objections or objections. The other person is also given the opportunity to decide for himself or herself how he or she can meet the expectation. Below you can read 6 principles of progress-focused directing. 

By practicing progress-focused directing techniques during training sessions, participants often learn the following things:

1. Get to the point immediately and honestly

Many people tend to say a few complimentary words or ask some interesting questions at first in a conversation. They may find it a bit crude or scary to get to the point immediately. But in a directing conversation, getting to the point immediately is generally better. The individual knows immediately what the conversation is about and therefore does not have to guess. Starting with compliments or interesting questions can cause discomfort to interlocutors. They may ask themselves "Where is this going?", or, "Oh, this compliment is probably meant to soften the negative news I'll soon next."

By getting to the point immediately and honestly, your interlocutors know right away what the conversation will be about. They may not find the topic of conversation pleasant, but what they usually appreciate and respect is that you are honest about it.

2. Formulate your expectation in positive and concrete terms

It often happens that people in a directing conversation tend to mention the subject and the purpose in negative terms. This is understandable. For most people, a negative wording is initially a little easier to find than a positive one. For example, if you see one of your team members repeatedly interrupting another team member, you realize that this is annoying and does not work well. Then, you may be inclined to start the directing conversation like this: "I see that you are constantly interrupting your colleague and I want you to stop doing that."

But this approach often does not work well. First of all, because the negativity in your formulation can make the other person defensive or angry. People are often quite sensitive to negative information. Second, the wording probably does not work so well because you are giving the person a negative goal (you are telling them not to do something). A negatively worded goal is by definition somewhat unclear. If the person hears what he should not do, he does not automatically know what to do instead. It is usually possible to formulate your goal positively and concretely. 

3. Give a meaningful reason for your expectation

One of the least known but also most powerful elements in progress-focused directing is giving a meaningful reason for your expectation. This is also called a rationale. A meaningful rationale for your expectation is a clear reason why it is necessary for the other person to do what is asked. This reason is functional and specific. As a result, they will understands what wiil be better when they meet the expectation. It helps them to understand what the relationship is between their behavior and important processes in the organization. When they begin to understand this better, they can internalize the goal. In other words: they can start to endorse the required behavior. 

Formulating a meaningful reason is something that often requires some preparation. We often fail to articulate that meaningful reason on the spot in a way that the other person really understands and finds persuasive. To formulate the meaningful reason, you can ask yourself questions such as: "Why do I think it is important for the person to do this?" and "What will be better if the person is going to do this and why is that important?"

4. Do not say, ‘How can we…?’ Or ‘What do you need…?’ But: ‘How can you…?’

We often come across two standard formulations at the beginning of our training sessions. In directing conversations, participants often say "How can we ensure that…?" and “What do you need to make sure that…?”. Both formulations usually do not express what they actually mean and therefore do not work so well. If they are having a directing conversation in which they want the other person to do something, the wording "How can we make sure that…?" is actually misleading. This usually becomes clear when we ask for clarification in a time out: "Do you really mean that you want to take care of both of you here or together?" Usually the answer is: "Eh… no, he has to go and do that." In that case you can better use the wording: "How can you make sure that…?"

The second wording "What do you need…?" usually does not work well either. Interviewees usually interpret this question as something along the lines of, "What can I do for you, so that you…?" The question suggests to them that they get something, that they are offered something, or that something is arranged for them. In many cases, however, that is not what the interviewer meant. In the time out, they usually make clear that other person has to do something. Therefore, the question "How can you make that…?" is more honest and more effective.

5. Combine clarity with kindness

In many training situations at the beginning of training programs, there is some amount irritation, impatience or anger on the part of the managers. Such malicious attitudes can occur, for example, when employees have done something that the manager in question found incomprehensible or very annoying. For example, if someone has not kept an appointment. While a feeling of malice or impatience may be understandable, it often is counterproductive in converstations. We teach our participants that it is often possible to combine clarity with kindness and that this usually works much better. Such an attitude not only works much more pleasantly for your conversation partner but is also beneficial for yourself because you prevent escalations and are likely to achieve progress much faster in your conversation.

6. First join, then proceed

Joining first, before proceeding, is a technique that helps to make conversations smoother and more successful. The technique is that you first respond to what the other person has said before asking your next question or making your next point. Joining first to what the other has said can be seen as giving a receipt. If such an acknowledgment is not received, there is a good chance that others will repeat what they have said before. However, once the acknowledgment has been received, it is not necessary to say the same words again. After all, they have already arrived their destination. First joining before proceeding makes interlocutors more receptive for what you have to say. 

The 6 principles of progress-focused directing can be learned

These six principles of progress directing can make your directing conversations smoother and more effective. They are subtle skills that require practice. But they can be learned. In addition to practicing these skills, it is advisable to specifically prepare directing conversations. If you enter into a directing conversation well prepared, you will feel more confident and it will be much easier to keep in mind the purpose of the conversation.