Give employees reasons

“Give [employees] reasons for doing things when you tell them what to do and they will feel they are part of the project and not just following orders.” -Zig Ziglar

I had a coworker who had been given a very large, very long, very monotonous task. They had to comb through a spreadsheet of thousands of lines and slowly combine elements in a different piece of software one by one. The details don’t matter much to the story, but the point is, this was a large task that took her over a month to accomplish while juggling her other responsibilities.

One day I was chatting with her and mentioned how her efforts were making such a big difference in a core metric that the company was putting large scale concerted efforts into improving. Turns out she had no idea why she was combing though this large spreadsheet and had no clue how much she was helping the company and her coworkers.

I proceeded to give her more details on the fruits of her labor, giving her much needed context to the monotonous and monsterous task she had been given. She was ecstatic that she was making such a difference – it gave her a reason why she was doing such a boring task.

Taking an extra 20-60 seconds of your time to explain the full context of the task can make a huge difference in the quality of life of your coworkers.

But context can do even more.

There have been many times throughout my career where I had been given a task with little to no context – most often from non-technical coworkers. Upon asking a few probing questions I would uncover the “why” behind the “what” and can immediately provide a faster/better solution.

These days, I often don’t even assign tasks to the developers on my team. I give them goals and some of my thoughts on the implementation to get to that goal. If they can educate me by giving me an alternate improved implementation, then everyone wins!

Context to a request can make such a huge difference. It educates employees, can boost motivation, make them feel included, and most often results in a faster and higher quality end result.

When possible, don’t give tasks, give goals. If a task must be given, provide the context so they know why. A simple communication change and it can make such a huge difference in the quality of output and the quality of the lives of everyone at the company.