These notes are from my Communication Skills Training on giving instructions, how to delegate effectively and how to be assertive.
When giving instructions, where possible:
- Understand the task from as many perspectives as possible. If you don’t, you are not going to be able to explain it effectively to the person whom you are instructing, particularly where the task is complex. The ripple effect could be enormous.
- At the beginning, convey the purpose of the exercise and tell the person what you are going to ask them to do. In other words, it helps to give them the full scope and sequential information.
- Deliver the message in the most appropriate way for that task and that person.
- Let the other person know what the time frames are e.g. ‘you have 5 minutes in which to complete this exercise’.
- Minimise intervals between instructing the person and letting them start that aspect of the task.
- Observe what the other person is doing, monitor progress and take action on deviations.
- Be clear in what you are asking them to do. Don’t assume. For example, if you are giving a list of instructions, tell them whether they should just be writing down the instructions or actually drawing the picture.
- Give the person an opportunity to ask questions and answer them in the right amount of detail. Get people to reconfirm that they understand the instructions.
- Be aware of noise and other barriers and avoid – for example, standing too near others who are talking can distract. Speak at the right level for that person.
- Take into account what tools the person has and modify the instructions accordingly. For example, it’s pointless telling the person there is blue sky and green grass if the person has only a black pen!
- Consider your knowledge of that person and their capabilities. Adapt your instructions accordingly. (It’s easier where you know the person, have a relationship and trust them.)
- Avoid an unnatural environment – for some, not being able to face the person or not having eye contact tempted them to cheat because they found it unnatural.
- Use eye-contact and other observation (e.g. body language) to assist in obtaining feedback.
- Sometimes, the position of the person makes a difference. In this exercise, because they were ‘back-to-back’, in some cases, the person instructing transposed ‘left’ or ‘right’ for the person where this wasn’t necessary.
- Past knowledge some-times interferes – for example, some people may have had previous exposure to a different type of ‘three-runged-swing’ and presumed, without hearing any further details, that the one they were to draw was identical to their past experience.