Pro Tip: Plan, prep, kit and review to optimize your effectiveness as a leader and help others understand what you are trying to achieve.

As a teacher and an engineer, I try to find engaging activities that demonstrate a lesson while also achieving several results —efficiency is key, right? I want my students to learn, build relationships with each other, think outside the box and pick up new techniques.

Before one such class, I purchased five different 1,000-piece puzzles and prepared five Ziploc bags. In bag No. 1, I placed all the puzzle pieces and the box top with the finished puzzle picture on it. In bag No. 2, I placed all the puzzle pieces, but no box top.

For bags No. 3 and No. 4, I divided two puzzles in half and combined each half into one bag, so there were two different puzzle halves in each bag, and one box lid with the picture in each bag. Lastly, bag No. 5 got only half of the puzzle and no corresponding picture.

I then separated the students into five groups. While I was passing out the puzzle bags, I told the class not to touch them until I said, “Go.” Everyone was going to get equal time for this project, if not equal bags. Once the bags were placed, I held up a stopwatch, told the teams to raise their hands once finished and said, “Go!”

Immediately everyone opened their bags and began matching puzzle pieces. With roughly six people per team, it was interesting to observe their approach and see who took the reins and how open communication was crucial to solving this problem quickly.

Team No. 1 finished first and in under 5 minutes. Team No. 2 finished next and took 15 minutes.

Teams No. 3 and No. 4 had puzzles with uniquely different colors and each team eventually noticed that the other team had colors that seemed to match the picture I had provided with their pieces. Working together they exchanged pieces and Team No. 3 raised their hands after 35 minutes and Team No. 4 after 45 minutes.

Team No. 5, however, was losing their minds. With the room filled with type “A” overachievers, the thought of saying “uncle” wasn’t easy, but they finally insisted that they must not have all the parts needed to complete the task.

At 55 minutes I called the room to attention and asked what this reminded them of? Someone yelled, “A typical down day in a bakery!”

“Yes!” I said. You see, the key is not just good instructions or just having all the right parts “kitted.” The key is painting a picture with your instructions AND pre-kitting all the right parts. Just imagine how much better Team No. 1 might have been if I had offered verbal instructions, and we held a “puzzle piecing” (down day) planning meeting.

Planning, prepping, kitting and review (making sure your team understands what your vision is) are keys to optimizing your effectiveness as a leader and ultimately that of your team.

The picture on the puzzle box demonstrates the importance of ensuring others can envision ‘what’ we are trying to achieve.

 Always trust but verify.

Rowdy Brixey is founder and president of Brixey Engineering Inc.

You can connect with him at LinkedIn.