“But I thought….” is the lead-in to millions of lost strands of hair and even more dollars. Re-work challenges real work for primacy.
Why is it so difficult to give and receive instructions?
The ability to give instructions that get it done, when the task is to be done, in the way it should be done escapes even seasoned leaders.
I have distilled 3 recurring factors that disrupt the giving and receiving of instructions. Working on reducing their impact will bring greater peace of mind and reduce re-work losses significantly.
#3. Different starting points
I land at the Miami Airport and go to pick up my rented car. I ask for instructions as to how to reach my destination. Detailed instructions are given – Exit # off I-95 and the lane to take on nearing the Exit.
I get in the car and after circling the airport twice, I return to the parking lot and seek instructions as to how to get on to I-95.
The agent thought I knew how to navigate from the parking lot on to I-95 and I was too ignorant to realize the difficulty.
Assuming that the person receiving the instruction is further ahead of where they are in reality is a major cause of frustrating mistakes and failed attempts. Hubby bought the wrong brand – shucks!
The added problem is that this often takes place in situations where there is a need for urgency.
Beware “Go now!” … “Do now!” Mistakes lurk behind them.
Darling, run to the store and buy some salt. Now honey!
Oh, no what is this …you know we only use sea salt!
You assumed incorrectly.
The messenger is advised to break speed records to get a bid in before the deadline. His attempts at seeking clarification are rebuffed with the call for immediate action. Go now!
He does get to the building in time but the 15 minutes it takes to find the right bid box causes him to miss the deadline. The dispatchers failed to start where he was. The things he wanted clarified were blocked by the deceitfulness of urgency and wrong assumptions.
Solution: Make no assumptions. Correction – assume that the person receiving the instruction is clueless and needs to be guided from appropriate starting points. Treat urgent situations with caution… they mask costly mistakes.
#2: “I got it!”
Without giving away too much about an instructive exercise from our Time & Task Management workshops, I watched the equivalent of the following play out as a senior professional gave instructions to a colleague:
Giver: “Go to the left”
Receiver: Voices “Left” but moves to the right
Giver: “Move forward”
Receiver: “Forward” but moves backward.
This actually happened and I share why.
I presented an outcome that should achieve and demonstrated one way to get there. One person was designated to give instructions to their partner with backs turned. No questions were allowed.
The receiver had a clear picture of the procedure that I used and was replicating that even while acknowledging in words the contrary instructions being given. He knew what to do and stopped listening.
Failure to listen effectively causes many costly mistakes. Hearing is not equal to listening.
Solution: Engage in meaningful two-way exchanges of information until you are convinced that the instructions have been received without distortion. Monitoring execution is also critical.
#1. Failure to follow procedure
Nadad and Abihu grew up in the temple as sons of Aaron – the High Priest. They would have witnessed countless sacrifices and would have been trained how to offer sacrifices. Yet, they departed from established procedure and lost their lives. (Bible – Leviticus 10)
User error is a primary cause of costly mistakes – despite manuals and training.
Solution: Seek ways to make adjustments to SYSTEMS that reduce user error.
Examples: Insert verification processes or use physical devices. Align that with improved training, monitoring and supervision. Increasing penalties is also a deterrent.
Register now for the SHRM-accredited 3-D Leader Certification: Leading Difficult People or our on-demand “Time & Task Management” course. E-mail: info[at]swpacademy.com
The next cohort of the ICF-accredited Certified Behavioral Coach Award starts in January 2017.
Trevor E S Smith is a Behaviour Modification Coach with the Success with People Academy, Extended DISC/FinxS. The Success with People Academy is recognized by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) to offer Professional Development Credits (PDCs) for the SHRM-CPSM or SHRM-SCPSM Certifications.