How to Deliver Instructions To Ensure They Get Followed
As a leader, a large part of your role is going to involve providing instructions for people to follow, and then helping to make sure that they follow those instructions and complete them.
While this might sound like a very simple part of the job, it’s actually an area where there is a lot of room for error – and this can seriously undermine your effectiveness as a leader. Read on then, and we’ll discuss how best to provide instructions so that they are followed correctly.
I see this time and again, where leaders (or most people, for that matter) send out a message and get upset when it’s not received as they intended it. Why does this happen?
One explanation is that our defense mechanisms tend to rear their ugly head, blocking what is being heard. Some examples of defense mechanisms include: generalizing and boxing someone in to a certain behavior; mind-reading or just knowing what the person is thinking or going to say; or denial, where one is not ready to hear the other person’s views or want to deal with them. None of these lead to effective communication.
Perspectives and expectations also tend to get in the way of effective communication and can lead to conflict and resistance. Perspectives are individual as each person ‘sees’ their experiences according to their experience and interprets it based on their beliefs and values. Expectations are based on how one would act or behave or on how a situation should play out and, when those don’t happen, they get upset.
Communication is more complicated than you may think of belief. Here are a few tips to be clearer in yours and to get more following on your instructions:
Be Clear and Concise
The first and most important rule when it comes to providing instructions, is to be as clear and concise as possible. Remember that each individual will interpret words differently, depending on their background and experience; for instance, anger is one that can be confusing, but the person may think of frustration or hurt which are forms of anger
That means reeling off the points in a bulleted list that outlines each step that a person needs to take. This will in turn ensure that they aren’t confused, and it will be especially important during high pressure situations.
In fact, wherever possible, a great idea is actually to provide some form of checklist. Countless studies show that when you provide a professional with a checklist, they will tend to complete much better work. This is because they can’t overlook or forget an important step. This is not only useful for beginners, but also for the highly trained who can sometimes become complacent and forget important steps.
Another suggestion is to have the person repeat back what you asked; this is a technique called “mirroring.” When we ask for clarification, i.e. ‘so did I just understand you in saying …..” This will either confirm what you heard or provide the opportunity to have the person restate their conveyance until they match with your understanding.
Explain the Why
Using lots of detailed and simplified instructions might sound like you’re talking down to your employees or team members. It certainly does run this risk! The result can be resentment and resistance to what you are asking.
That’s why it is so important that you make sure that you also explain why you are giving any instructions and the benefits they will get. When you do this, you are giving the people listening to you more respect and responsibility, which will help to motivate them to do better work.
More importantly though, explaining why someone should do something will help them to better understand what you have asked and it will reduce the likelihood of error.
At the same time, when you give these kinds of explanations, you also provide your listeners with the ability to make their own decisions about how work gets done – which allows them to be more creative AND to work around problems.
If employees are tasked with following a specific instruction with no idea why they need to do so, then y won’t be able to adapt to challenges that come up. But if they know what the end goal is, it allows them to think outside the box and find an alternative option to reach the same point!
Reach out to get more leadership help and tips to be more effective in your role – leadership involves lifelong development.