The Managers Oracle

| Posted in Leadership Blog

Mark Schwartz, Author of The Managers Oracle shares with us the following excerpt from his book…

Always Issue Clear Instructions

Here’s a key question: Why in the world would you want to risk failure when you can virtually ensure success by taking just a moment to give out very clear instructions?

Almost without exception, every boss who has ever handed down an order has, at one time or another, also been guilty of dispensing poor instructions.  Inadequate instructions can lead staff to misunderstand their goals, perform unneeded work, utilize inefficient methods, or waste resources as a result of trying to exploit the wrong materials.

As a leader/manager, it is essential for you to consistently go far out of your way to BE SURE your staff understands both your instructions and the reasons you issued them.  Remember, as a leader you are NOT communicating with children; you are talking to adults who are being well paid to perform tasks correctly.  You want to try to ensure success because that’s what you are being paid to deliver.

From my book, The Manager’s Oracle: 125 Key Lessons Nobody Ever Taught You About Leading and Managing, here are a few brief-but-essential lessons that will help you understand the tremendous value of giving out very clear instructions.

Lesson: Providing complete and very clear instructions is a most important key to your team’s, and by extension, your own success.

Lesson: Even at the risk of sometimes sounding tedious to a few members of your staff, always make sure you’ve made the reasoning behind your plan very clear.  If necessary, write it out in longhand or put it in an e-mail message.  Over time, your area’s results will begin to pull ahead of your peer managers because you are squarely set up to avoid wasting your team members’ time or their resources.

Remember, the weaker the team member, the more of your personal effort is likely to be needed to make an assignment clear.  Ultimately, you’ll personally gain from having many fewer delegated tasks go wrong.  That is, you simply will not have to stop whatever important thing you are doing – to mop up some subsequent mess.

Lesson: Issuing careful and thorough instructions and making sure they are well understood costs far less than the costs you’ll incur over time, in cleaning up after constant disasters.

Of course, experienced employees should never require detailed instructions every time they perform any task they’ve already handled even just once or twice.  (Obviously, that behavior would fall into the category of micro-managing, and would quickly become a waste of your own time and energy.)  This warning is true unless a given task includes some kind of new feature or change they could easily misunderstand.  If the task includes something new and complex, you are effectively giving out instructions for an entirely new task and you should make certain everyone understands the revised routine.

Lesson: If an employee is just not able to get it right after too many (a number that is entirely up to you) tries, that employee qualifies as a lunkhead, not you.  Then, it’s time to be a little upset and possibly angry.  Apparently, you may be asking that employee for something that really can’t happen.  That employee just is never going to get it right.

Clearly, there is inevitably a point where you just have to say, “I give up!”

Learn more about Mark and The Manager’s Oracle at

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