Do As You're Told
Updated: Sep 17, 2022
Doing as you're told has its rewards. When you are a kid, or if you are a parent with children, doing as you are told is sort of the generally accepted practice. Or at least, expectation. One side does as the telling and the other side does the doing, preferably immediately and without complaint, and as long as that is the case there is some relative peace and harmony in the house.
The same is true in the workplace. For most "leaders" (I use that term loosely in this context), the preference is that they say something, and that the something gets done, without question, hesitation, or individuality creeping in to the picture. I would argue that most leaders (again, " ") don't do this maliciously or perhaps even overtly. The screaming, yelling, get your &%@ in gear style is not necessarily the most prevalent in today's society, particularly because it is outdated and likely doesn't work well with most of the employees in today's workforce. So while it may not come across as being overbearing and demanding, the underlying expectation, more often than not, is one of compliance.
During my last few years as an educator, things were increasingly scripted in the classroom. This was not a directive from my immediate boss, who was exceptional, but rather, a true top down directive. While I can't argue about the intent behind this decision, to move more in direction of a collective "way", I can say that what it did was greatly weaken the strengths, creativity, and individuality of the classroom teacher. Instruction across several content areas was scripted, both in time and in actual speaking points.
Follow the script, don't deviate too much, do as you are told, and everything will be fine.
That is, as long as you want to develop compliance over creativity, collective peace, over individual growth and responsibility, or authority over communication. When challenged, I don't know that many bosses would truly want these things for their employees or their organizations, or that many parents would want them for their children or families. But this is what is being created when we demand, even implicitly, that the people under our care keep their thoughts to themselves and just do the job that we've laid out in the manner in which we've described it to them.
As leaders and business owners, we can fight against our natural desires that would have us not be challenged or questioned, and encourage our employees to bring their strengths, creativity, and energy to the table every day. Otherwise, we are relying solely on ourselves to carry things forward, and that is personally exhausting and professionally limiting. Operating in a manner that declares that we have all of the answers and that everyone else should just listen and follow our script, implies that we are the only one who knows what's right.
While that may work for awhile, ultimately, it puts a cap on our business that is limited by our own personal knowledge and ability and insures that we only keep and maintain employees that are willing to be compliant and thoughtless rule followers. Eventually, we'll find ourselves wondering why we have to put out all of the fires ourselves, and asking why we don't have anyone who can problem solve on their own without us.
Perhaps we'll go out and find some new people, ridding ourselves of these drones who can only do what they are told and who won't think outside of the box. Then, when they arrive, we'll make sure they know just how big the box is and what they need to do in order to stay inside of it.
And so it goes.
When you create a script, you create a crutch, and it's a cycle that's ongoing. Every new issue or wrinkle requires a new addendum to the script. If you have or create script followers (actors, really, drones pretending to be capable and thoughtful employees), then you will have to constantly rewrite the script to make sure they are comfortable, and that each new situation can be addressed in exactly the way that you want, and that there is no room for any new deviations as things change over time.
Until organizations and leaders are willing to change the environment, the results will remain the same. The beautiful thing about being a small business owner, or leading an organization at the ground level, is that we have the opportunity to influence an environment that encourages people to live into their strengths, to question the status quo, and to solve problems as they arise, and in doing so, to grow the business in ways that we can't see when we force our own individual script on everything we do.
Here's to hiring people who want to show up each day, not to fill a chair, but to let people know they are actually present. Here's to looking for people who are strong in areas that our organization is weak, or who have things to bring to the table that we may not possess ourselves as the leaders and owners of the business. Here's to creativity, curiosity, and collaboration, over compliance.
I'm pulling for you,
I work with small business owners and entrepreneurs to help them create a business and a life that can thrive together. If you'd like to learn more, or if you'd like to share my information with someone that might benefit, you can do so here: www.bryanhendley.com.