One common frustration leaders and managers have is that their teams fail to deliver what is expected of them, because they don't think holistically and they are not proactive or creative. They get stuck with problems and keep coming back to the leader for direction. As leaders we may sometimes feel we have incompetent teams, but is that true? Have we done our part in helping our teams get things done, and get things done right? 

One phrase we often hear from bosses is "don't make me repeat this". That is exactly the wrong mindset in leadership. What is important must be repeated. Again and again. So that it is understood and internalised. When we give instructions or assign tasks, we must make sure we have communicated our expectations clearly. IYOSA is a simple method that can help us save much time and heartache. 

I - I Tell You

Tell your team member what needs to be done. 

Y - You Tell Me

Ask your team member to say in their own words what it is you have asked them to do. This is the first check to see whether they have correctly understood the task. Sometimes by doing this, we may already detect misunderstandings and misinterpretations. 

O - Objective

Ask your team member what they think the objective of the task is. If they understand the objective clearly, their imagination will not be constrained by the instructions you give them. Your instructions are not what is important. You must realise this too yourself. It is the desired outcome that is important. 

S - Scenarios

Ask them what can go wrong, and what they would do if the work goes wrong in those specific ways. If they are already prepared to react to various possibilities, they don't need to come back to you every time something unexpected happens. They understand the objective. They have already discussed and agreed with you how to handle specific situations. In some scenarios you may ask them to come back to you to discuss. In others you can empower them to act fast. 

Your team member may know more than you. There may be scenarios you have not thought of that they will suggest. By asking open questions, you are not only coaching your team member to think proactively, you are helping yourself gain insights.  

A - Alternatives

Ask your team member whether there are better ways to achieve the objective. We have our blind spots. What we ask them to do may not always be the best way or even the right way. By encouraging them to think and be creative, they being closer to the ground may surprise us with better solutions. In the complex business environment that we operate in, we want autonomous and self-driven teams, not passive machines which only follow directions. 

Saying the same thing five times may seem like overkill. However when your team is getting things done first time right, you will save much wasted effort and greatly improve your team's efficiency. Effort put into upfront communication is worth it.