Skillset New Zealand Blog

Ideas to help your team develop personally and professionally.

Why don’t they do what I ask?

Have you ever asked one of your team members to do something and then discovered that what they did was not what you wanted?

Whenever I ask team leaders in a training workshop if the instructions they give do not always result in what they wanted, I get an immediate reaction. They laugh, frown, roll their eyes and sometimes tell me that it is the story of their life as a team leader.

So why do team members not do what we ask? There can be a variety of reasons. It might be a lack of competence, capacity or motivation on the part of team members. But, it might also be because the intructions we gave were not effective.

The next time you are about to give some instructions to a team member check first that you include the following things:

Reason—Why this task?

Workers are more likely to perform a task correctly if they know the reason for the task.

For example, simply telling someone to wear their PPE is not enough. Let them know the reason for the PPE and how it will keep them safe.

Responsibilities—What am I supposed to do?

Just because you know what to do does not mean that they automatically will. Simply telling someone to be safe for example is not enough. Make sure you explain to the worker what they need to do to be safe and how it needs to be done.

Relationships—who is involved?

Very few workplace tasks occur in isolation. Everything we do has an impact on someone else. Make sure you let the worker know who they are doing the task for and who they are doing it with, and how it will or could impact others.

Results—what outcome is needed?

Just telling someone to ‘get it done’ is generally not enough either. Make sure they know what you expect to see once they have completed the task. This may include letting them know when the task needs to be completed, how you will be checking that it was completed, and the evidence they will need to show that it is completed.

Giving good instructions in the workplace is a task that requires skill. It takes practice and discipline to get good at doing it. Next time you want a worker to perform a task well, make sure you do your task of giving instructions well also.

Written by Roydon Gibbs, Director & Senior Trainer & Consultant at Skillset