Every Friday at work, we have an all-team meeting, or “huddle.” These huddles always end with shout-outs, which is a wonderful way to publicly recognize, praise, and/or thank our colleagues. (This has always been really important to me—when I was at Counter Tools, I implemented a peer-to-peer recognition program called Daps.)

Last week, we added two more categories to shout-out time: personal achievements, where we’re encouraged to celebrate our own accomplishments; and whoopsie-daisies, where we share mistakes and our learnings from them.

I’m especially thrilled that whoopsie daisies have been added to the mix. I’ve written about the importance of having the safety to make mistakes at work, so I was happy to jump in and share one from that week.

I knew exactly where I had gone wrong. 

What had happened was: I had just closed out a survey and got all of the data together for a colleague to review and pick out insights. I got a head start on selecting some insights that I thought were interesting, but I didn’t have time to review the entire dataset before being out of office for my ear surgery. So when I handed the data and my notes off, I gave my colleague the option to pick up where I left off or to start fresh on her own. When I got back to work, I realized that she had reviewed my partial insights instead of the full dataset.

I was reminded of a lesson I learned (over and over again) when I started teaching. I would have an assignment or an activity for my students to complete, but there wasn’t one right way to complete it, so I would give them options. I thought I was being accommodating to different learning styles, but instead I just confused the heck out of them. What they really wanted, instead of options, was clear instruction.

That lesson doesn’t just apply to teaching middle schoolers. I think everyone appreciates simple, clear instruction, and that’s what was missing from my data hand-off to my colleague.

So I shared my experience at the huddle and I’m sharing it again here, partly to really cement the lesson for myself. But maybe it can help you, too. Next time you give instructions or delegate something to someone, ask yourself if you’re being as clear and straightforward as possible, or if you’re giving too many options in an attempt to be accommodating.

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