What is your first response when you get a new task from your boss? Do you ask your boss, "When do you need this completed?" Every task has its timeline and I believe you have more than just one job on hand. Hence, when your boss hands you a new task, the most important thing to do is to readjust the priority of all your tasks. If you don’t know when your boss expects the task to be completed, how are you going to adjust the work pace for your team?
Sometimes your boss might suddenly think of something that has yet to be completed and tells you to do it when you have the time. Now, let’s say you really put this task at the end of your to-do list. Days later when your boss asks you about the progress of that particular task, are you going to tell him, "I still haven’t got the time. Didn’t you say to do it only when I have the time?" I believe your boss's response to your reply is to wish he has assigned the task to another manager since you are too occupied with other work. Eventually, your boss may think that you are not productive and efficient.
If you have questions for the task assigned to you, all you need to do is to ask your boss about the desired result and objective. Most bosses will be happy to give you more information. When you are clear about the objective of the task, you’ll be able to understand the big picture and produce good results.
Always remember to maintain a humble, respectful and trusting attitude when you ask about the task given to you. If your boss is the "Just to as I say" type of person, you have to use a softer approach. Always let your boss understand that your intention (of asking for more information) is to produce the best results.
As for your subordinates, help them to understand the reason for doing the task given so that they will see how the company operates. It will also boost their morale and give them a sense of ownership of the task.
Excerpt from The Art of Position by Datuk Stella Chin