“What did you do?” asked the boss with concerned frustration.

I was twenty-two and working for a friend as a irrigation installer. It was a great job. It paid the bills and I got to enjoy the outdoors for the summer. With a couple slow days, the boss decided to have me do some work on his own yard.

Focussed on his customers and trying to work with a short Canadian summer, my friend’s yard had become somewhat neglected. Pine trees had taken over the front and back yards and his landscaping was rustic. Located in the midst of the city, yet I felt like I was at the lake. I walked through the gate into the backyard and the smell of pine caused me to breathe a little deeper. It was like instant relaxation, as if all my cares were gone!

My friend wanted me to clean up the acorns that had fallen in the front yard. A few instructions and I got a rake and wheelbarrow and began raking as my friend left to go start his day. I raked and raked, taking load after load of pine cones, tree bark, twigs and leaves to the back compost. Hours had passed and I had finally completed the front yard. Being somewhat of a perfectionist, I raked his yard as if he was expecting royalty on the weekend—every inch was cleaned of debris.

My friend returned around lunch with a stunned look on his face and eyes wide opened. I immediately thought how I must have impressed him, well, until the words fell from his mouth, “What did you do?”

“I cleaned the yard like you asked?” I curiously questioned.

“Noooo!” my friend sighed and dropped his head.

After the next few minutes of explaining, I became educated that the bark, twigs and pine cones that I cleaned up, were actually part of his low maintenance landscape mulch. I had no idea! The intended landscaping material flowed throughout the front yard, but was to be contained in certain areas similar to flower beds. I had not only cleaned the lawn free from debris, I also cleaned the areas where the bark, twigs and pine cones were intended to be. Thank God my friend was a gentle and understanding man.

The importance of instruction became clear that day. I was given instructions, but without understanding the landscaping flow of the yard, I assumed that it was all to be cleaned. Had my friend been more clear, or I asked more questions, the deconstruction of his yard would have never occurred.

This experience taught me the benefits of better instructions…

  1. Improve employee/employer relations. Prevent frustration and confusion, and improve trust.
  2. Increase productivity. Prevent loss of money and time—having to redo work the right way.
  3. Job satisfaction. Work done properly leads to the satisfaction of a job well done.

Four tips to help you reap the benefits of better instructions…

  1. Don’t assume employees understand what you are asking. We all think differently, and though an employee may say “Yes” when instructions are spoken, it’s important to have them repeat the instructions to you in their own words to ensure they understand. If needed, show them by doing a hands on demonstration.
  2. If there are many details, write them down to ensure nothing is left unsaid. The employee will be able to refer to the list, rather than trusting their memory.
  3. Follow up with a call or text message to ask how things are going, if they need anything or have any questions.
  4. Upon completion, do a visual inspection of the job that was completed. If anything was missed, hold them accountable to the instructions that were received and understood. Praise them for the good work and avoid harsh criticism as it tends to only lessen morale and performance.

I hope you enjoyed my anecdote and can apply the simple techniques listed above to improve your productivity. If you need someone to help clean your yard, let me know. 😉

Do you have a story that could help educate or inspire other business owners to improve their business? Drop us a line.

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The Author

Ryan Boutin

Ryan Boutin

Entrepreneur and Marketer, Ryan is driven by a passion to help people grow their business. As CEO of Zeal Media Inc, a web development and marketing firm located in Saskatoon, Canada, Ryan's mission is simple; Implement custom strategies to launch small businesses to drastic growth. With a vision to reach more people, InspireCast was born.

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