Clear Instructions – Precise Results

Instructions are - especially in stressful times or when the tasks are not routine - an essential leadership tool. In this case, clear and direct instructions are more effective than discussions and meetings, which only serve to extend the transfer of responsibilities more slowly. Therefore, direct, clear, unambiguous instructions are essential. Regardless of whether the instructions are given verbally or in writing, there are some basic rules to consider:

Clear communication
The clearer you give the instruction, the better the result will be.

This includes:

•    The exact definition of the task
•    The description of the expected result
•    The deadline for completion of the task
•    Details for resources and support available

For complex tasks it is useful to get feedback from your employees. Let them repeat or summarise the instructions for the task in their own words in order to make sure that the process and results are clearly understood.

Do not apologise
Never say, “I’m sorry for the short notice…” There’s nothing to apologise for or to rationalize – in doing so you minimise your authority. You are the boss and you know why this task is important and you certainly had your reasons for ‘why?’ and ‘who?’ when you delegated it.

Clarify the whole purpose of your instruction
Instead of an apology, explain why the task is urgent and necessary. This helps your employees to be more motivated to complete the task. If the overall purpose of a task is understood, your employees will more easily accept uncomfortable tasks and decisions.

Verification of results
Each instruction requires a verification of the result. Make sure that your aim is not to control the person, but the result.

4 Tips for Effective Instructions:

•    Define the task, the expected result, the deadline and the resources clearly.

•    Have the employee repeat instructions for complex tasks.

•    Do not apologise. Instead, explain the overall purpose.

•    Verify the results.


You can find more information about improving your skills in the area of time management and delegation in our ‘Priorities Organisation Planning’ BEITRAINING programme.

Go back