Some time ago, I spoke at a wealth-building convention in Florida. About ten days before leaving, I contacted my publisher and told the head of the company that it would be a good idea to contact Barnes & Noble and have them sell copies of my new book at the event.
He agreed and said he would put his in-house PR person (“Ms. Uptite”) on it right away. Having already had one too many experiences with Ms. Uptite’s “arrogance of the ignorant” attitude, I was a bit apprehensive about her handling the matter, but my publisher assured me that everything would be fine.
Within a day, Ms. Uptite reported that she had spoken to the manager of a nearby Barnes & Noble store, and that the woman had told her she would be happy to sell my new book at the conference. She assured 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 Florida to make certain the books had arrived.
Unfortunately, all I got was a 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 years, which gave me a very uncomfortable feeling.
Persistently, I took the trouble to call yet again the morning I left for Florida, but once more got nothing but a voice mail on the other end of the line. After my plane landed, you guessed it — my relentless nature prompted me to call the manager of Barnes & Noble on the way to the hotel. By this time, you already know the result.
Nevertheless, I compulsively called one last time from my hotel room before going to bed. By now, I felt as though I knew the manager of Barnes & Noble 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, but 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’re over thirty and have the slightest bit of business experience under your belt, you’ve heard it all 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 follow through and make certain that 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 in Florida 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 was a jogging term.
She then went on a tirade, making a big issue over the fact that getting books to a speech location in Florida 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, in rights-oriented New York, 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 given her a spanking (better yet, a caning), then 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 against creating value for others, twenty 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.