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July 6, 2018

Giving Instructions for Results

Have you ever given an employee clear instructions only to have them deliver something other than what you wanted? Sometimes the problem lies with the employee’s listening skills; other times, it lies with your communication skills. Here are some tips to make sure instructions deliver results.

  • Be direct.Clearly state what you want the employee to do and any rules, regulations, or processes that they must follow.
  • Describe your expectations.Make sure the employee understands the level of quality you want in deliverables and how much authority they have for decision making.
  • Be precise.“Quickly” and “soon” are relative, ambiguous terms that are open to interpretation. Use specifics with respect to dates and times. Avoid, “I need it tomorrow morning,” and instead instruct, “I need it by noon tomorrow.”
  • Ask for questions. Ask the employee if they need more information, using an open question, such as, “What questions do you have?” You will more likely get a response than if you ask a closed question like “Do you have any questions?” See my blog post Ask the Right Questions for more information.
  • Don’t assume anything.When giving instructions, don’t assume the employee has understood. Ask them to recap what they heard to ensure understanding.

When giving instructions, remember that visual people like to read things, so provide guidelines in writing. Auditory people like to listen and repeat what they have heard, so allow time for dialogue. Some people are kinesthetic—they need the actual, tactile experience of doing something to learn it, so make sure they know that they can come to you at any time to review what they have done.

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