“No matter what your instructions, no matter what your ‘students’, you will be a more effective ‘teacher’ if you move from the simple to the complex.”
Ted Pollock, Managing Creatively: 1, Cahners, Boston, 1971, p. 38.
In our last blog post we dicussed the importance of giving orders and instructions clearly and effectively. Here are a few extra tips and hints on this topic to help you!
Here’s an idea
When delegating a task to an employee, always try to explain the task in terms of the organisation’s needs. For example, instead of simply saying, ‘I need a marketing plan for Product A on my desk by 10 a.m. Friday’, say something like, ‘The general manager wants to discuss our marketing plans after lunch on Friday. It’s important we make a good impression.’ By couching the order in a more specific frame of reference you let the employee work towards a larger goal which is more motivating.
Here’s an idea
Be realistic when you assign a deadline for the completion of a project. As well, avoid the practice of asking for the task to be completed earlier than you need it – or your staff will stop taking your deadlines seriously!
Here’s an idea
Avoid having a busy person overlook your documentation or memo by placing the papers on that person’s chair while s/he is absent. In this way, your colleague can’t avoid picking up your material in order to sit down. As well, consider adding a little note which prompts action, e.g. ‘Thought you would like to browse this memo before you get down to other routine matters – call me for further details.’
Good case studies and stories are always fun too…
The wrong brand of coffee
President Nixon was working alone, very late at night in a hotel room while on a trip across the United States.
He opened the door, beckoned to a waiting aide and ordered: ‘Get me coffee.’
The aide immediately responded to the request and headed off down the corridor. Most of the services in the hotel were not operating at such a late hour – and that included the hotel kitchen. Hotel personnel had to be called in and a fresh pot of coffee brewed. All this took time and the President became more and more impatient as the minutes ticked by.
Finally, a tray was made up with a carafe of coffee, cream, sugar, and some sweet rolls and this was rushed to President Nixon’s suite.
It was only at this point that the aide learned that the President did not want coffee to drink – he had wanted to talk to an assistant whose name was Coffee!
The issuing of vague instructions is but one of life’s communication sins, yet clear communication is a management skill that is not always mastered – even by a President of the United States.
Smile & ponder
It was the staff assistant’s first day on the job. Handing the new staffer an industrial stapler, the supervisor said:
‘I’ll get the photocopied pages of this report in the right order and then, when I nod my head, you staple it.’
The assistant did exactly as he was told – and it took the supervisor half an hour to get his toupee off.
All of which reveals how important workplace communication can be, and how vital it is for us to check that our instructions have been clearly understood.
Henry Ford’s advice
Henry Ford often said that when he had a time-consuming and unpleasant task to do, he would assign the ‘laziest man I could find’ to do the job. He observed, ‘Within a day or two, he will come up with a quick and easy way to do it.’
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