Here is a story I swiped from one of my email newsletters. A good lesson you need to read.
Written by Robert Ringer
Whenever I speak at a conference, I arrange with my publisher to have copies of my latest book available for attendees to buy.
Usually, it’s no problem. I show up at the event and the books are there.
This time, however, he delegated the job to “Ms. Uptite,” his in-house PR person. Having already had one too many experiences with Ms. Uptite’s attitude, I was a bit apprehensive about her handling the matter, but my publisher felt confident that everything would be fine.
Indeed, within a day, Ms. Uptite reported that she had spoken to the manager of a local Barnes & Noble store, and that the woman had told her she would be happy to sell my new book at the conference. She told Ms. Uptite that she would order a large supply of the book right away.
A few days later, I checked with Ms. Uptite to confirm that Barnes & Noble had ordered the books, and she assured me that everything was “under control.” Having been through more than my share of assurances in the past that proved to be nothing more than hollow words, I called the Barnes & Noble manager directly two days before I left for the conference to make certain the books had arrived.
Unfortunately, all I got was her voice mail, so I left word. No return call. The day before I left, I called again. Same result. It was beginning to have the aroma of 7,238 other “under control” experiences I’ve had over the past two decades, which gave me a very uncomfortable feeling.
Persistently, I took the trouble to call yet again the morning I left for the conference, but once more got nothing but voice mail on the other end of the line. After my plane landed — you guessed it — my pertinacious nature prompted me to call the Barnes & Noble manager on the way to my hotel. By this time, you already know the result.
Nevertheless, I compulsively called her one last time from my hotel room before going to bed. By now, I felt as though I knew the woman just by virtue of listening to her recorded message so many times.
When I arrived at the conference the next day, the manager not only was there, she was all set up to sell books outside the room where I was going to be speaking. One problem: She didn’t have a single copy of my book with her.
Why? If you have the slightest bit of business experience under your belt, you’ve heard it many times before. She had given instructions to someone else in her store to place the order, but there apparently had been “some kind of mix up.” Which is a euphemism for “The order was never placed.”
I’ve heard so much of this kind of “Gee, sorry” talk over the years that it all tends to sound like “blah, blah, blah” to me.
When I returned home, I let the hierarchy at my publisher’s office know that, as usual, Ms. Uptite had failed to make certain her instructions were carried out. Like most people who never get very far in life, Ms. Uptite doesn’t have a clue as to the importance of follow through.
The desire and ability to follow through — to double-check, triple-check, and, in summation, do whatever it takes to make things happen — is one of the most glaring separators between winners and losers. Losers love to delegate, and usually do so with style and grace. But they have absolutely no idea how much more is involved in successful delegation than merely directing someone to do something.
The latter is only half (or less) of the battle. Checking back on one’s delegation to make certain it gets done — and done correctly — is every bit as important as the initial instructions.
When her boss confronted Ms. Uptite with the fact that not only did my book not arrive on time, but it was never even ordered, she was humble, embarrassed, and apologetic, right? Are you kidding? She went ballistic! Her position was that, having told the woman at Barnes & Noble to order the books, she had done her job. To her, going the extra mile is a jogging term.
She then went on a tirade, making a big issue over the fact that getting books to a speech location in another state wasn’t part of her “job description” anyway. I guess I’m just old fashioned, but to me everyone’s job description is to do whatever it takes to please both his employer and his employer’s customers. If this isn’t the description of your job that you hold in your mind, you’re probably not going to go very far in your organization or in life in general.
Business, and to a great extent most of life, is about giving people more than you promised, quicker than you promised, easier than you promised. The only way you’ll ever make any money with an official job description is if you manufacture toilet paper with “JOB DESCRIPTION” printed on every sheet.
It goes without saying that Ms. Uptite was allowed to get away with the temper tantrum she threw in the publisher’s office, which is unfortunate for her. If my publisher had really cared about Ms. Uptite, he would have sat her down and acquainted her with the facts of life.
He would have displayed a great deal of compassion by explaining to her that if she goes through life using her official job description as a shield, 20 years from now she’s going to be pretty much what she is today — a loser fixated on demanding her rights and reading her job description with the same fervor that many people display when reading holy scripture.
The humanitarian side of me prompts me to pass along a bit of down-home wisdom to Ms. Uptite that could set her on the path to success almost overnight if only she would embrace it:
If you always do what you’ve always done,
You’ll always be what you’ve always been.
Thanks for your attention.