. .

testh2(2).gif (378 bytes)


































































Information Technology


Company Profile


Company Profile




Politics & Policy






Directing clearly

By M.Shafiq
Associate Professor, AMI,
Iqra University, Karachi
Dec 31, 2001 - Jan 06, 2002

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 understandable words.

• 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 objectives.

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 directions.

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.