Redirection Redefined – 5 Steps to Stay on Track

Change Just Ahead Green Road Sign with Dramatic Clouds, Sun Rays and Sky.For many, the word redirection translates to, “Uh oh—big trouble.” For some, the idea of a redirection can seem the equivalent of a dismissal, separation, or firing.

That’s a limiting perception. The job of managing people includes managing roles, goals, and day-to-day performance. Redirection is a part of that process.

In some ways it’s like flying airplanes where flight plans are set and frequent corrections in the air keep the airplane on course. The goal is a smooth flight that will arrive at the desired destination safely. But a surprise bout of turbulence may force the plane to change altitude to find smoother air space.

The same is true in the workplace. We all hope for a smooth ride in the course of achieving our goals but people sometimes experience turbulence and need “in-flight” corrections, too. This type of correction is what I call redirection.

A Closer Look at Redirection

A redirection is used for learners in a “can’t do” situation, not in a “won’t do” situation. With constantly evolving priorities, technology, and demands, many a worker is learning something new every day. Add in unclear vision, goals, or roles, and a worker can fall behind or make mistakes.

How should a new manager approach a person who needs redirection? Ken Blanchard shares a five-step process in his bestselling book, Whale Done! The Power of Positive Relationships.

Here are Ken’s five steps for redirection:

  1. Describe the error objectively, without blame and without drama.  Example: “Your report was two hours late.” No eye-rolling, desk-pounding, or sarcasm. Just the facts.
  2. Describe the negative impact of the error.  Example: “As a result, I had to cancel an important meeting because I did not have the data I needed in time.” Again, no emotion. Just the facts.
  3. If appropriate, take the blame for not being clear.  Example: “I was giving you a lot of direction about several projects at once. Perhaps I wasn’t clear about the absolute deadline for your report.” This is an important step and can be a powerful, face-saving, loyalty-building action to take. It’s entirely possible that a new manager was not clear or specific enough.
  4. Go over the task or goal again.  Example: “To be sure that I am clear this time, let me review with you what I need and when I must have it. I need….” It’s important to give very specific information and also to get agreement that what you are asking for is possible.
  5. Express continued trust and reaffirm your belief in the person’s abilities.  Example: “Now that we have talked about this, I’m sure we’ll have no problem next time.” People need to know that an error will not permanently taint them.

It’s normal to occasionally get off course—especially when you are learning a new skill or taking on new goals and projects. Redirection is a natural part of the process even though it can be uncomfortable at times.  As Winston Churchill said, “I am always ready to learn, but I do not always like being taught.”  When a correction is required, this 5-step redirection can get things back on track.

About the author:

Cathy Huett is Director, Professional Services at The Ken Blanchard Companies.  This is the third in a series of posts specifically geared toward new and emerging leaders.

9 thoughts on “Redirection Redefined – 5 Steps to Stay on Track

  1. It always fascinates me that most people automatically assume redirection is a negative. To put it in the flight analogy, what if having to change altitudes actually results in a tailwind that gets you there quicker and with less fuel consumed?
    That’s not a bad thing… that’s a great thing… but only if we have the courage and persistence to redirect without destroying our team in the process.
    Thanks for making me think Cathy!

    • Thank you Bill for your comment. Perhaps the underlying problem is that our self esteem is fragile and we like to think we are pretty good at most everything we do. We don’t like hearing that something can be done better – or having to deliver that message to others. But with the courage you mention, a manager can take people to higher levels of performance – enhancing their self esteem in the process.

  2. Considering the differences between a Low vs. High context culture and Task vs. Relationship trust oriented culture, are these 5 steps valid for all the different cultures?
    If not, how these 5 steps should be modified or adapted according to the different culture?

    • Thank you Ivan for raising an interesting question about culture. In my experience and in my opinion the 5 steps to redirection are helpful to getting performance back on track in most situations. Keeping to the facts and avoiding assumptions, allegations, blaming, scolding or belittling makes for objective feedback. I believe that objective feedback followed by review of what needs to be done or corrected and ending with an affirmation of the person is pretty safe territory. Of course specific words, timing and details will need to reflect the culture.
      Take care,

    • Why would you want to modify this to be different in either a task or trust based environment? Don’t all employees benefit from clear objectives, constructive feedback and the occasional reminder of managerial trust in their abilities?

      • I asked that because during my MBA I’ve had the opportunity to meet people coming from different countries (Europe, Asia, Middle East,…) and thanks to such unique experience now I am aware about the relevance of handling different mindsets and culture in order to be more effective when communicating as well as avoiding threats coming from cross-cultural divergences.
        Anyhow, as Cathy answered to me, keeping to the facts, avoiding assumptions and so on will avoid most of such situations and just in case trim the 5 steps according to the cultures and mindsets.

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