Instructions at the Workplace – Getting it Right!

To be effective, managers are required to delegate tasks to their employees. However, most managers are afraid to do so. This is because often what they ask for and what they get (final product) are totally different!

This challenge can be overcome if managers communicate their instructions clearly and effectively. Here are few things to consider in getting your instructions understood.

1) Timing
If you give instructions in the morning (while they are ‘fresh’), they may still be thinking of yesterday’s unfinished tasks. If they receive your instructions in the late afternoon, their minds may be set on what they will be doing after work!

2) Method
Sending a text message, e-mail or memo is fast and efficient. However, this one-way communication may not alert you if they have not fully understood you. Whenever possible, go for face-to-face communication. This way, if they are shy or embarrassed to admit that they have not fully understood, you can read it through their body language!

3) Reference
A picture is really worth a thousand words – if they can ‘see’ it in their mind, your job is half-done. If you prefer reports written in a particular format, show them a report written in the past. If you don’t have an example handy, give them a simplified diagram or sketch of the final product.

4) Questions
Always pause in between to see if the listener is in doubt or unsure. Avoid asking ‘Do you have any questions?’ as most people – in order to avoid embarrassment – will answer ’no’. You are better off asking ‘What questions do you have?’ as this signals that it’s okay to have doubts.

5) Paraphrase
Here, you should get them to paraphrase your instructions. You could say ‘I want to ensure I have explained myself clearly – please confirm with me what I have just asked you to do.’ Be sure to maintain a pleasant tone when asking this question or employees might think you are simply trying to test them. Your duty here is to ensure they have not missed out any details.

6) Progress
If the task is a complicated one, tell them that you want them to report their progress to you (few days later perhaps?). This prevents them from procrastinating as they know you will be checking their progress.

After the task has been completed, give your employee some feedback – if it was carried out well, give them positive feedback, and if not, give them some corrective advice. This is also a good time to do a self-evaluation. Look back at the areas which you have done well and which need improvement, and correct yourself for better results next time.

This article was created by Gulshan Harjani
And was also posted on The Jakarta Post – 28 June 2006

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