I am fortunate to have an uber-perfectionist named Jessica by my side. She is incredibly responsible, completely reliable, and in general just a wonderful person to work with.
At times, I forget that Jessica strives for perfection in all that she does. She literally lives to serve – serve me and our business, serve her son Gage who is quite possibly the luckiest kid in the world to have Jessica as his mom, serve anyone she comes into contact with whenever there is something she can do to serve.
Based on the above, it’s clear that Jessica is not the problem when things go wrong. Quite frankly, Jessica is wired never to be wrong! The problem is that I don’t always provide Jessica – and others like her – enough information to be successful in her role.
You see, I tend to live my life at warp speed – oftentimes, doing things last minute just when the ideas pop into my head. I then move on to the next “shiny object” that attracts my attention, completely forgetting – and at times neglecting! – what had my focus just moments ago.
I recently participated in a Vistage meeting where I became very present to the fact that Jessica and I are two very different people. We likely have several similar and shared goals – most notably getting things done in a high-quality manner we can both be proud of. The problem, then, isn’t intention. It’s communication!
For Jessica to be successful in her role, she needs clear direction and enough information to know what I’m thinking. When I slow down enough to communicate that to her, she and I both succeed. When I don’t, we both get frustrated and struggle because we aren’t able to achieve that shared goal I referred to before. My A’ha then is to “over communicate” with Jessica such that she has what she needs to take the actions required to set us up for success.
In my world, I already know what I’m thinking and have a clear vision for how best to execute on my goals. It just doesn’t strike me as requiring much communication to fulfill on those intentions. Jessica, on the other hand – clearly not a mind-reader or able to execute on what’s in my head – simply requires a more complete understanding of what I’ve been thinking before proceeding with any new task. That doesn’t make her stupid in my book. In fact, it makes her ingenious because she’ll execute flawlessly – and likely better than anyone I’ve ever had the good fortune of meeting – once she has that big picture understanding of what she needs to do. She’ll even put the systems and processes in place to keep doing it again and again and again.
If I communicate effectively with Jessica – even if it feels like over communicating to me – she will never get it wrong. Even better, if I provide clear direction to her just once – and preferably the first time through – I’ll never need to ask or tell her again!
So it’s not Jessica’s fault when things go wrong. It’s my fault for under communicating and not providing clear direction the first – and sometimes second or even third – time through. While this communication approach may not correct underperformance at work per se, it surely will benefit those less-than-perfectionist employees too. They, too, need at least enough information to be successful. Whether they meet expectations or not at that point is another matter.