Why Can't They Just Do Their Job?
By Vicki Anderson
Jul 3, 2007 - 6:53:16 AM

When deadlines are pressing and everyone's whining, when you've reminded someone of a task for the umpteenth time, or when you've seen the usual suspects drag in late, have you ever said in frustration, "Why can't they just do their job?" Welcome to the club!

At the end of the day, it sometimes feels like being a manager is like being a glorified babysitter. The duties are the same but the shoe sizes are bigger. You spend your time chasing them around and reminding them of what they are supposed to do and not do.

There has to be a better way to manage, right?

It's called leadership. When you lead, you create an environment where people decide to follow, take responsibility, and are willing to be held accountable. When you manage, you tell people what to do, monitor the progress, and make adjustments as necessary to achieve success. Of course, you should do both, but the more you lead and the less you manage, the more successful you and your employees will be.

The first step in leadership is determining where you are going. How can people do their jobs if they don't know their purpose? How do their jobs fit into the big picture or even into the next cog in the wheel? People can take responsibility much easier when they know what they are responsible for-and that means more than just a list of job tasks.

The second step in leadership is gaining commitment from people to do what they have been hired to do. Make sure you have clearly communicated the job standards and provided them training to do their jobs. If you haven't been clear and specific about what you want them to do, you are going to get mixed results. Make sure they understand why the standards exist and ask them to identify any obstacles that can keep them from achieving the standards. Your job is to provide resources and remove obstacles so people can achieve. When commitment wanes, as it will when the going gets tough, remind people about the importance of the standards to the big picture.

The third step in leadership is inviting people to improve the process. Get them involved in watching for ways to continually improve. Don't settle for easy to reach goals. On the other hand, don't kill people with impossibly high goals. If you want to challenge your very best people to stay engaged, stay engaged yourself by looking for and rewarding innovative thinking. Encourage people to use "alien eyes" when they do their work. That means look with an outside perspective and ask, "Why do we do it this way?"

The fourth step in leadership is showing you care. The old saying goes, "They don't care how much you know until they know how much you care." If you often find yourself saying, "Why can'[t they just do their job?" take a look at your own attitude. Have you been empathetic and caring about what is going on with them? We all have one life divided into many segments. It is unrealistic to believe people can leave the rest of their lives outside the door. Taking an interest in people and their lives will earn their caring toward you as well. People enjoy working with people they care about. People give to people they care about. People are loyal to people they care about. If people are encouraged to be wholehearted at work, they are more likely to see their work as a piece of their life, not something to get out of.

The fifth step in leadership is helping people find the right fit. Sometimes we put a round peg in a square hole and wonder why it doesn't work. It's really hard to be successful if you don't have the knowledge, skill, or talent to do a job. Even if you think the job is one that anyone can do, be on the alert for clues that a person might be better suited for a different job. Match innate talents with learned skills. You will find that the skill level as well as job satisfaction will be higher.

So, the next time you find yourself pulling your hair out asking, "Why can't they just do their job?" stop and ask yourself, "Am I doing everything as a leader to help them do their job successfully?" Remember that just because a job can be done by someone doesn't mean it will be done by them successfully. You have to lead them by creating an environment where they want to and can be successful. And sometimes that even means helping them work somewhere else.

Vicki Anderson works with organizations that want to develop top notch leadership and communication skills leading to increased performance and profitability. For more information on speaking topics and books go to Contact Vicki at 918-252-1027 or

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