Leaders know how frustrating it can be when team members fail to follow what seem to be simple directions to complete a task. It’s tempting to attribute the glitch on the staff member, but wisdom instructs leaders to rethink this notion. Instead the leader should consider whether the source of the problem might be his/her leader’s failure to communicate their purpose. “Purpose” tells people how to interpret orders, execute procedures, solve problems, resolve conflicts, and overcome unexpected challenges; it informs their judgment and allows them to improvise. “Purpose” is also the power behind initiative, goal setting, and perseverance. So it is always wise to communicate the purpose of a task or project when you assign it.
One way to ensure that you communicate your purpose is to use the C.A.P.E .S. acronym as a guide whenever you assign work.
Describe the situation, events, and conditions that are calling for action at this time.
Briefly tell the person what you want them to do. Concisely provide an amount of detail that matches their expertise. Include information on timelines, resources, and scope boundaries as well.
Describe why you want this work done, including goals, outcomes, and what is important about the work. Sometimes it can be important to use contrasting, which is telling the person what outcomes you do and do not intend to result.
Explain what you know:
Tell the person what to look out for, such as challenges they might face, problems that could arise, sensitive issues, and touchy stakeholders.
Invite the person to probe for more information. Converse with the person until they are clear about the “whats” and “whys” of the assignment.
© Credo Consulting, June 2012