4 common errors in giving instructions

“- Giving too many instructions at one time.
“- Failing to make sure that instructions are understood.
“- Putting too many “don’ts” in instructions instead of stating things more positively.
“- Giving an insufficient number of instructions


the positive power of reward

In a now classic experiment conducted by the psychology department of Columbia University, a group of volunteers had one-pound weights suspended from their index fingers. They were instructed to crook the finger, thus lifting the weight, for as long as they possibly could. Only when they were certain that they could no longer budge the weight were they to signal the psychologist in charge.

Some of the volunteers were able to lift the weight 100 times or more. But, sooner or later, each one reached his own individual point of total exhaustion. His finger felt paralyzed; the weight seemed to weigh a ton.

None of the subjects could see any of the others and as each succumbed in turn, the psychologist hurried over to him and whispered something in his ear.

In every single case, without exception, the volunteer was able to lift the weight many more times after listening to what the psychologist had to say. Some were able to lift it more than 20 times past the point they were initially convinced represented complete exhaustion. Several subjects bettered their original performance by almost 30 percent.

The magic phrase the psychologist whispered was this: “From this point on, I will give you a dollar for every time you succeed in lifting the weight.”

A dollar bill for just crooking the index finger! It worked like magic. Suddenly, fingers came to life. The weights moved swiftly, firmly.

Why? Because nothing is geared to extract that last ounce of effort from a human being better than a reward.

What does this mean to you?

Just this: If, as you check on your progress through a big job, you reward yourself as each sub-goal is attained, you will lay the psychological groundwork for additional achievement. It is precisely when we think that our last effort has taken everything out of us-imagination, perseverance, energy-that we desperately need a shot in the arm.

Rewards, as well as the prospect of them, provide just this. They excite us. They give us immediate pleasure. They provide tangible proof that we’re getting somewhere. And they help make a game out of what is essentially a deadly serious business.

An integral part of attacking any big job, therefore, is to set, in advance, “reward points,” those places along the road to completion of the task where you will consciously pause and treat yourself to something because you’ve earned it.

What applies to you, of course, applies equally to those who may work under you. Try rewarding them from time to time and watch their performance improve, too.

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4 common errors in giving instructions

“- Giving too many instructions at one time.
“- Failing to make sure that instructions are understood.
“- Putting too many “don’ts” in instructions instead of stating things more positively.
“- Giving an insufficient number of instructions.