Imagine an authority figure that not only gets things done but does so without threats, bribes, or raising his/her voice. While it may be rare to come across people who are assertive without being overbearing, they are easy to remember when you meet them in the workplace. On the opposite end, there are plenty of aggressive people around bully and cajole to improve productivity. Once you distinguish the line between the two behaviors, it is simple to see where one set of behaviors will get result (assertiveness) and the other will generate resentment and low morale (aggressiveness).
So how does one go about asserting authority without becoming the enemy? The following five suggestions should help anyone looking to improve his or her ability to lead a team while improving output and inspiring loyalty.
1. Avoid mixed messages at all costs. Don’t be overly apologetic, make constant excuses, or be “wishy-washy” when giving instructions or other orders. Phrases that fit this description include, “I’m sorry to ask you this but would you,” “I feel bad about this but,” and “I wouldn’t be asking you except that.”
2. In contrast to that sort of diluted form of directive, be clear and direct with your communications. Before you confront anyone, prepare what you are going to say ahead of time so that you can work out the most direct and clear manner to present the information. You want others to feel that you know exactly what you want, what you need them to do, and how you feel about them as a team member. The more confidence you inspire, the more people will believe you and following your instructions perfectly.
3. Being concise with your directors helps them to be more impactful and more easily understood in their instruction. The fewer words you are able to use, the more efficient your use of language will be and the less time you will spend speaking instead of listening. After all, the more you listen the better you will understand the progress and pitfalls your plans have produced.
4. A behavior that can be nearly as counterproductive as being pushy and mean is to fawn or be overly affectionate with people. The key to being effectively assertive is to remain positive at all times without being ingratiating. Politeness, smiling, and regular recognition for the efforts of others will keep your people feeling valued without being inappropriate.
5. Finally, never give the impression that you are unable to give your full attention to anyone you are directing. Looking directly at someone and offering your attention will help them take you seriously and feel as though they matter. Speaking unclearly or hastily while otherwise occupied gives the impression that you don’t mean what you say and that you, yourself, are not taking your instructions seriously.