Have you ever wondered why a team member did something completely wrong? Have you assigned someone a task and the final product was not quite what you needed?

While it's certainly possible your team member made a mistake, perhaps he simply didn't understand what you'd requested. Ensuring your employees know what you expect is a key step in developing an effective team.

The challenge is we tend to think we've provided clear direction and expectations. However, we may not be communicating as clearly as we'd like to think. So, how do we combat that issue? Here are five options:

1. Provide job descriptions

Employees need to know what you expect someone in a particular role to do.

  • What tasks is the person in this role responsible for completing each day, week or month?
  • What does success look like for someone in that role?
  • Why is this role important to the vision of the organization?

Providing this information in a short document forces you to really think through the requirements for that role. It also ensures you communicate expectations consistently.

2. Communicate the vision ... repeatedly

The vision for your organization should be the filter you use in making decisions. This is how you determine what products or services to offer, how to handle requests from the customers, and where to focus your efforts (especially when workload exceeds available resources).

When your team understands the vision, they're more able to make decisions that align with the vision and won't need to ask you every time there's a choice to make. However, you can't just communicate the vision a few times and expect your team to feel its weight the same way you do.

About the time you're sick of hearing yourself talk about the vision is usually when it's starting to soak in for your team members.

3. Offer clear direction when assigning projects or tasks

You may think the task is pretty straightforward, but err on the side of caution and provide as much information as possible.

  • What do you want the final outcome to look like?
  • Who do you want them to have involved in the process?
  • When is this due?
  • How often do you want status updates and in what format (email, verbal, etc.)?

Have the individual repeat back to you what they heard and correct any misunderstandings immediately.

4. Give immediate feedback

Don't wait until the event is over or for an annual review to give feedback.

After a meeting that your team member led, let her know if she led the meeting well or what she could do to improve next time. When a team member provides you with a status update, tell him what you liked about how he presented the information or what additional details you want to hear next time.

5. Ask for feedback

Feedback should be a two-way process. Ask your team if you're communicating clearly.

  • Do they understand what you're looking for when you assign a task?
  • Does your feedback seem to contradict what you asked them to do originally?

If they have constructive criticism for you, don't get defensive or try to put the blame back on them. Remember: Communication is more about your audience than it is about you. If they didn't understand what you said, then try another tactic to see what works best.

A team that connects with the vision, understands their roles, and is able to give and receive feedback can accomplish a great deal. Communicating clearly involves a bit of extra time and effort. However, the investment can really pay off.