Learning & Development

Repeat It Back to Me

Virtually all managers have experienced situations in which an employee failed to follow instructions. While there are certainly cases in which an employee was simply negligent or disobedient, it’s also extremely common for the underlying issue to be miscommunication. The manager believes he or she communicated one thing, but the employee thinks he or she heard another.

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One simple yet useful method managers can use to boost the effectiveness and efficiency of their communication with their teams is having employees repeat instructions back by saying something like “Does this make sense to you? Can you explain how you understand this task?” or simply “Can you repeat that back to me?”

Confirms Employee Is Listening

One of the most straightforward benefits of having employees repeat instructions back is that it ensures they’re listening. Not only does asking them to repeat instructions confirm they did listen, but employees who know their manager is likely to ask them to repeat instructions are also more likely to listen closely in the first place.

Allows Opportunity to Clarify Miscommunication

Anyone who has played the game telephone as a child knows how quickly a message can get distorted when communicating it to another person. This can happen as soon as the message leaves the manager’s mouth. Having the employee repeat the message back allows the manager to clarify anything that was misheard or misunderstood.

Forces Employee to Internally Process Directive

Having employees repeat instructions back isn’t intended to be an exercise in precise parroting. Managers should ask their employees to repeat the task in their own words. Taking instruction and responding with their understanding of it in their own words force the listener to internally process the information, making it far more likely he or she will retain it.

Communication is an essential element of any effective team. Unfortunately, too many companies and teams take communication for granted, and something as straightforward as a verbal instruction can get misconstrued the instant it’s spoken. Asking employees to repeat instructions is a great strategy to ensure the message is delivered as intended.