A Practical Approach: Answer 4 Questions to Give Clear Directions

 Marketing Director   April 4, 2024  Leadership

Leader giving clear directions and  distributing materials to teammates

Good communication skills are valuable in all aspects of life. Communicating clear directions at work can greatly impact the workplace, affecting the success of projects and defining strong leadership.

A lack of good communication from a manager can negatively affect employee morale. In a recent LinkedIn poll, we asked what the most positive sign of a good manager was. The top response was “Gives Clear Direction” (47%), followed relatively distantly by “Ensures Manageable Workloads” (33%).

When giving instructions to a direct report or coworker, being as clear as possible about the who, what, when, where, why, and how can help both parties be efficient and effective. As you compose that email or prep for the meeting or phone call, consider answering these four questions they might have:

1. Why are you telling me this? Why does this matter?

Have you ever had a higher-up approach you to discuss something and after a few minutes, you still don’t know why you’re part of the conversation? Providing the context of your request from the very beginning can quickly and easily clear that confusion. Share any goals and objectives that you have and explain that you need their help to achieve them.

2. What do you want me to do?

    Now that the person knows you want something, lay out exactly what you need them to do and what your expectations are. What is the task you want this person to complete? Are there other people or resources that this person can leverage? Is there an example they should reference? Make sure they understand the task and ask if they need anything clarified.

    3. What work has already been done? What will happen after I complete the task?

      Understanding the process from start to finish can help a person better understand what their efforts contribute to, what resources/information are already available, and may even spark their ideas on how to improve the process. Knowing what will happen after they complete their task also establishes transparency and accountability.

      4. How urgent is this? Is there a deadline?

        Be mindful of other tasks and projects that this person may be juggling. Let them know if this is an urgent request requiring immediate attention or if the timing is flexible. When possible, provide a due date. This helps the person prioritize their workload as they try to meet your needs.

        Quick Tips for Emailing Clear Directions

        Given our reliance on emails at work, here are a couple of quick tips to improve your email communications when giving instructions or making a request:

        • Include Key Details in the Email Subject Title: Email inboxes can be inundated with emails, real and automated, all vying for attention. To make your message stand out and quickly convey your directions, include an action statement and deadline in the subject title. For example: “Review/Provide Feedback on Draft Article by 10/8”
        • Keep Emails Brief; If It’s Getting Too Long, Try Another Channel: No one enjoys reading long emails, and nobody likes writing them either. If you find yourself crafting a message and feeling it’s taking too much time or becoming uncomfortably verbose, consider making a phone call or scheduling a meeting instead.

        Always conclude by letting them know they should reach out if they have questions or need support. Additionally, if it’s a complex task with multiple sub-tasks, consider scheduling check-ins throughout the process to monitor progress and address any concerns.

        Check out more Top Articles on HERC Jobs.

        About the Author: Marcia Silva is the director of marketing and communications at the Higher Education Recruitment Consortium. She strives to create engaging, research-informed content that empowers job seekers and employers committed to creating inclusive workplaces. She is passionate about using digital media and technology to encourage participation and strengthen communities.