I will be honest: it’s been a discouraging week, for reasons I’ll explain momentarily. But my loss is your gain, because the struggle has served to crystallize a truth so simple, so universal, and so revolutionary, that I can confidently offer you THE secret to guaranteed success in the workplace.
Are you ready?
It’s not education. It’s not experience. It’s not productivity, networking, or certifications.
It’s the ability to read instructions…and then follow them.
By the time we reach middle school, we’re tired of hearing the words “check your work.” But our third grade teachers were clairvoyant. They knew – and were trying to warn us – that success in problem-solving comes down to three steps: 1. Read the problem thoroughly; 2. Follow the instructions given; and 3. Go back to make sure you didn’t miss anything.
It’s so simple, it hurts.
I shudder to think what percentage of my professional life has been spent carefully crafting detailed, informative emails that never even get read. How many hours have I wasted outlining steps that were completely ignored? How many times have I said the words “read the work order” to my team?
My week was comically (tragically?) full of unnecessary, avoidable reiterations. Employees, vendors, clients – everywhere I turn, I’m surrounded by people who have lost the will to read.
And therein lies my frustration. Humans are more literate than ever, and yet, for whatever reason, we scroll faster than we’re able to process. We gloss over the meaty parts. And we never (ever!) re-read to ensure that we fully understood the gist.
Inattention to detail has real-world consequences. Vendors who can’t read a purchase order lose my business forever. I’m not being vindictive – I just don’t have time for that kind of hand-holding.
On the bright side, it’s never been easier to stand out in the marketplace. Do you want to be exceptional? It’s simple! Slow down, read the instructions, and then check your work. Your manager will sing your praises. Your customers will be more satisfied than ever. You’ll be viewed as the indispensable self-starter everyone wants on their team.
This week, commit to reading. You’ll move a bit slower on the front end, but you’ll more than make up for it in accuracy.