Over the years I have managed multiple team members with a multitude of different personalities. In that time I have made some lifelong relationships with some of them, and had a tumultuous relationship with others. While you would think that the team members that I am still in contact with today would have been the best employees, you would be wrong. The truth is that over the years I have had to fire many team members that I really liked as people. Even though we could not continue as colleagues we were able to continue a relationship as friends. Other team members that I didn’t get along with personally were exceptional managers. This comes down to the famous saying; “it’s not personal; it’s business”. While I tried to help some of the people I liked personally, sometimes it came down to them not having the skill set required for the job, in many cases, not being able to follow directions.
It never ceases to amaze me how many people simply cannot follow directions. One thing I have always done throughout my career is make sure that I follow directions. When my boss asks me for something, it takes top priority over everything else I am doing. Never have I ignored a direction from a superior, or pushed it to the back of the line. However, I have seen this multiple times by other colleagues.
Many companies spend thousands of dollars, and countless hours training each employee on the proper way to complete a job within the most stringent safety guidelines. This is to insure that the job is done right and that the employee goes home safe at the end of the day. However, despite all the efforts and emphasis on procedure and safety, some rogue employees take it upon themselves to break the rules and do things “their way”, putting the company, their lives, and their jobs, at risk.
As a manager I task many of my team members with specific assignments that need to get done. We will go over the details of what I need and a time frame for completion, ending with a Q&A period. However, more often than not, I have to send reminders to them asking again for the ‘deliverable items’ I originally requested. All I can say is thank you Microsoft for Outlook, because without it, I would have a hard time keeping up with all the reminders to ask again and again for the items from my team members. To this day I don’t understand this problem. If my boss has to remind me of something I am mortified that I let it slip. Never would I need to be reminded a second time. So how is it that I have some team members that I have to remind a third, fourth, and even fifth time? How long do you think I will continue to rely on them?
Now don’t get me wrong I have several team members that I never have to ask twice. I also have Managers that feel the same way I do and instantly return my requests ahead of the scheduled completion date. These are my Rock Stars and the team members that will go far with me. However, others will decide what is important and what is not important to them. I honestly believe they think I give them assignments just to keep them busy. The truth is, that if I asked for it, it’s because I need it. Maybe they don’t understand why, but that doesn’t reduce the fact that I wouldn’t ask them for something I didn’t think was important.
I have had many people ask me how I have achieved success in my career thus far, or advice on how they can move up the corporate ladder. In the end it comes down to following directions. If your superior tasks you with something, you need to treat the task as though your job depends on it. If a company has rules-- follow them, as though your job depends on it. There is a reason you were assigned those tasks, or why those rules are in place, even if you don’t understand what they are. Please understand that I am not suggesting that you follow blindly without question. I have never had an issue with a team member questioning my direction. In fact I enjoy it when someone challenges my ideas. I know I don’t have all the answers and I am always looking for another’s insight. What I am referring to is when people say they understand and agree with the assignment and then don’t deliver. If I have to ask two or three times to get something, then I begin to feel that either you don’t respect me enough to execute my request, or you don’t know how to do what I asked.
I have always believed that there are only four reasons why people don’t do what they are told:
1. They don’t know how.
2. They don’t have the proper tools or support.
3. They don’t want to.
4. They are just plain lazy.
Items one and two can be easily fixed by getting them the training, tools, or support they need as long as they let you know what they are lacking. Items three and four are different issues. If one of these is the problem, the only cure is to get rid of the team member and find someone who is motivated to replace them, and supply them with the training and support needed to be successful.
I want to close this article by stating that I am not trying to come across as a tyrannical fascist; but just giving all my readers the best advice I can give, based on my many years in management. If you follow the directions of your superior and the rules of the company, not only will you earn the trust of your superiors and start your accent up the virtual corporate ladder, but you may just learn something along the way.