Not long ago I saw my friend who manages about one hundred employees. We ended up in a discussion about the frustrations of being in charge and the challenges of getting everyone on the same page when it comes to customer service. He said something that made me smile, then instantly frown.
“Beyond the “Give it all you’ve got!” and “Wow them!” pep talks, the one I find myself repeating lately is this: “Please focus on only one thing today. Just one. Don’t be an idiot, the rest is details”.
“Really?” I asked. “Why?”
He answered my question with a question.
“It’s puzzling to me. Are we becoming so dependent on technology we don’t think? Are problem solving and critical thinking skills fading because we Google everything or depend on someone else to come up with a solution?”
“Maybe,” I sighed.
He went on. “Most of those I work with have advanced degrees. I asked a guy something yesterday that only required a yes or no answer and he looked at me like it was a trick question. How can simple be so complicated? He had obviously forgotten the focus on one thing talk. What are we doing wrong?”
Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “Common sense is genius dressed in its working clothes.” A lot of common sense is learned from starts and fails and, sometimes, hard work and mistakes. Are we afraid of trying or have we just gotten lazy? Or are we so busy we just don’t want to slow down for a minute to think?
I remember yelling, “Turn around! Turn around!” watching the Three Stooges when I was a kid. The answers to most of their crazy problems were usually right behind them, but they would never turn around. When they finally did, everyone laughed because Mo, Larry, and Curley were ignoring the obvious. They desperately needed the “one thing” talk.
I wish I could say I haven’t done any Stooges type things in my life; being oblivious, making dumb choices or running into doors. But I can’t. Honestly none of us can. However, for me, mistakes are usually the best teachers.
So here’s what I’ve learned from my friend, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and The Three Stooges: behind the smile of every hard working person is a pile of common sense, always look behind you because the obvious is probably standing right there, and remember that One Thing … The rest is just details.