If you’re a boss, supervisor or manager, you’re probably used to giving a lot of directions at work. But if you’re not, you may be someone who mostly takes instructions from others. To get a task done properly, there are a few things we can all do to give and follow directions more effectively.
Tips on giving directions:
- Provide context and be specific: Give all the details. Provide any background to help that person better understand the task at hand. Try your best to be as detailed as you can, especially when you have a set idea about how the task should be done.
- Ask politely rather than barking orders: Tone of voice can change everything, especially when telling someone what to do. Speak at a reasonable volume and use kind, respectful words. Try to avoid negative language and don’t forget to say “please.”
- Offer the other person the opportunity to ask questions: Whenever the one receiving the task is unsure, it’s important that you allow him time to ask questions. The better he understands what to do, the greater chance for a successful outcome.
- Resist any urge to micromanage: If you give directions properly, you should not feel the need to oversee or micromanage. Instill faith in your task-doer by letting him do things without you to the best of his ability. Provide positive feedback and appropriate gratitude: When the task is complete, be sure to affirm the person. This makes your team member feel respected and trusted. And give clear, helpful feedback or constructive criticism if the task was done improperly.
Tips on taking directions and fulfilling tasks:
- Actively listen: Try to listen intently, not just hear. When you actively listen, you can better understand what you need to do. Here’s a trick that may help: pretend that there is going to be a quiz after the conversation. Visually think about what's being said and maybe even repeat it in your head.
- Take notes: Instead of trying to remember everything, write it down. There’s nothing wrong with keeping notes; it shows that you are prepared, organized and want to do the job correctly.
- Ask questions: If you are even slightly unsure of what you are being asked to do, don’t be afraid to question. Make sure the other person allows you the chance to find out all the needed details to move forward.
- Respond with a good attitude: Just as the person giving directions needs to speak respectfully, it’s important to respond respectfully. If you go into the conversation with a bad attitude, it’s likely that performing the task will be much more challenging.
- Before starting the task, make a checklist: Whenever there is a job that requires multiple steps, try organizing a to-do list. Check things off as you go to make sure you don’t miss anything. Then when you’re done, be sure to review your work.
Overall, positive communication and listening are essential when giving and taking instructions. For some jobs, following step-by-step directions is pertinent, but in the case of working in an office, warehouse, restaurant, etc., learning how to provide direction properly and knowing how to take direction make for a smoother and more productive work environment.