Associate Professor, AMI,
Iqra University, Karachi
Dec 31, 2001 - Jan 06,
None of the management functions can be performed
effectively without giving clear directions. All managers have to
instruct and give guidance to their subordinates for adequate work
performance. A substantial part of these directions has to be issued
verbally. Giving verbal directions is a very delicate process. It can
break instantly if handled casually. What makes it extremely difficult
is the illusion on part of many managers that since directions have
been given these must have been understood by the subordinates. This
is a very dangerous misinterpretation. A breakdown in the process of
directing usually results in confusion, altercation and recrimination
regarding what was said and what was understood. This is in addition
to delays, resource wastage and heart burning. In the aftermath of
directions gone wrong it is usually the manager who is one on the mat
and has to face the brunt of ensuing chaos. Such managerial
inefficiency, unpleasantness and embarrassment can be avoided if
managers are fully appreciative of the critical importance of giving
clear and completely understandable directions.
A large number of causes can make directions
incomprehensible, the more common of these being the following:
•Lack of moral authority on part of the manager
e.g. a carefree manager directing subordinates to work hard!
•Manager's own inability to understand the issue
or problem requiring directions.
•Unclear manner of giving instructions due to
selection of wrong, difficult and uncommon words.
•Body language conflicting with the directive
being given e.g. serious instructions given with a wry smile.
•Perceptual and attitudinal differences between
the manager and the subordinate, leading them to take different views
of the situation.
•Improper physical environment, e.g.
communicating in a noisy office or a clanking shop floor.
•Stressful state of mind of the manager,
subordinate or both which inhibits understanding.
•Reluctance of the subordinate to ask for
repetition, clarification or explanation of directions for fear of
being considered a dimwit.
Each one of the above causes has the potential to
distort and mystify the directions. When the subordinate does not
understand and the manager does not take care of the same, the former
fills in the voids in understanding with assumptions, guesses and
preferences and acts accordingly. In some serious cases, this can
result in a disaster that the manager never intended to stage. In view
of such potential catastrophe, it is imperative that the managers take
utmost care to convey directions as clearly as humanly possible.
Following suggestions can go a log way in helping
managers to ensure clear understanding of directions by the
subordinates for achieving targets
• Think and decide what directions need to be
given to whom and in what sequence.
• Compose them in simple, suitable and
• Convey these to the subordinate in a cool, calm
and a confident manner and in a proper environment.
•Give some background and rationale for the
actions required so that the subordinates can relate these to the
overall sectional, divisional, departmental and organizational
After giving the directions the manager should not
assume that the job is over. In fact, it is half done as only what
needs to be done has been conveyed. At this point nothing has insured
that all the directions have been clearly and fully understood. It
should not be assumed that those who have not understood these clearly
and completely would come up and ask for clarifications. In most
cases, such initiatives are meet only with raised eyebrows from the
managers. It is, therefore, extremely important that the manager takes
the initiative and
• Ask the addressee if all the directions have
been clearly understood and that there is no ambiguity about them?
Here again the interplay of psychological factors
can force most of the subordinates to reply in affirmative verbally or
through body language. The manager should then at the risk of being
fussy should take it further and
•Ask as to what has been understood?
The reply of this query will clearly indicate the
status of the understanding of directions on part of the subordinate.
At this stage, the manager can re-explain the directions if needed and
ensure complete understanding of the intended actions and performance.
It is also important to advise the subordinates of the type and
frequency of the feedback that is required from them in respect of the
Managers work with people and through people. They
are responsible for achieving results through the directions they
issue. Their proficiency in giving clear directions can be of real
help to facilitate actions of their subordinates in delivering the
desired performance. They should therefore consciously and
continuously improve the vital skill of giving complete and clear
directions till it becomes a habit.