Provide Foolproof Instructions

When staffers follow instructions correctly the first time, their productivity soars and your
frustration level drops. Follow these steps to ensure employees get it right every time:

  • Verify oral instructions. When you assign a task, ask the staffer to write it down; watch as the person takes notes. If you speak with someone by phone, ask the person to read back the instructions. That guarantees that the person understands what you want done.
  • Create deadlines. Always attach a specific deadline—a date and time—to any tasks you assign employees. That creates a sense of urgency.
  • Allow for a margin of error. Things don’t always go as planned, so build in a little lead time. If your boss needs the report by Friday, tell your staffers that you’ll need the work Wednesday afternoon.

— Adapted from “Put It in Writing,” Jeffrey Mayer,

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