Stop Creating Confusion and Start Providing Answers

There’s nothing more frustrating for a subordinate headquarters than to receive an order that lacks context on the situation or fails to provide the resources needed for execution. It seems that some people advance in their careers and forget what it’s like to serve at the lower levels. One example provides a good lesson on how higher leaders and staffs can enable their organizations instead of causing confusion.


CAMP HIGASHI-CHITOSE, Japan (Dec. 3, 2009)- An aerial view of the combined operations/intelligence center, manned by the Northern Army of the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force, Contingency Command Post of United States Army, Pacific and I Corps Forward during the early stages of Exercise Yama Sakura 57. Photo Credit: U.S. Army Sgt. Gerardo DeAvila, 124th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

Confusion at the Top

I got a mass email from the division headquarters in preparation for an upcoming visit from a 4-star commanding general. The email gave instructions to the units and individuals that the general would visit, giving us the pertinent times and locations of the visit. Then it said, “Ensure that all personnel have read and understand the general’s training guidance for this fiscal year, as well as his published policy on sexual harassment prevention.”

My natural reaction was, “Ok, where can I find those documents?” But the higher staff did not attach them to the email or make it easy for me to complete their task. Instead of providing answers, they created confusion. Thus, I spent the next 20 minutes searching for the appropriate documents so I could review them myself (and then send them on to my subordinates).


Effective staffs provide answers, not more questions. Take the perspective of the people you’re leading and shape your products to make it easy to follow your orders…even if it means more work for you! Serve and enable the people you lead and you will accomplish the overall mission more efficiently and effectively.

Questions for Leaders

  • Take a look at your own unit’s guidance products or orders. What else could you provide your subordinates to make their jobs easier?
  • Does your product stand alone? Could someone execute your intent based on the order and nothing else?
  • How could you simplify your language to provide clarity to your organization?

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