Specifically…it’s a magic word. We live in a world filled with a lot of ambiguity and fluff. Especially dealing with tough situations...people tend to want to beat around the proverbial bush in an attempt not to hurt someone’s feelings or for fear of making a mistake. When I am dealing with someone, I always ask to please just give me the specifics. I want to have all of the information needed to make the right decision and make sure I don’t screw up. Don’t fluff it up for me...just give me the meat.
Speaking of specifically, there is a business practice I learned years ago that has always stuck with me. It’s the responsibility of the person delivering the message or instructions to make sure the person receiving the message or instructions clearly understands specifically what needs to be done...not the other way around. There should be no room for ambiguity or interpretation. That is why I always follow up important conversations with an email so that there is never any misunderstanding later on down the line. I have just seen this kind of stuff happen too often in business. People will often say something like “I never agreed to that” or “I didn’t understand” or “that’s not what you told me to do.” It is always nice to go back to my email and pull up the specific follow up I sent them and say either “yes you did and here is your acknowledgement” or “yes you did, because you received the email on X date and opened it at X time." If I can’t do that it is always a disagreement over the interpretation of the conversation. Not to mention putting it in writing always gives them specific instructions they can go back to and review.
We are all influenced by our background and experience. We perceive instructions in the context of our education, experience, background, the culture of our organization, and a number of other variables. Successful people know this, and they make sure that their instructions are clear, concise, specific, and well understood. Successful people also know that they must walk a fine line between conveying adequate instructions and killing a person’s incentive by not allowing them sufficient latitude to do their jobs. You may strike the right balance between specific instruction and motivation by encouraging employees to participate in setting objectives for themselves and their teams, by helping them develop plans for achieving their goals, and by making sure that each individual clearly understands the team’s mission and his or her role in achieving it. Suggest that team members check in occasionally to report their progress, then get out of their way and cheer them on to victory. Finally, make sure you recap what was agreed to in writing with timelines and deadlines.