As I’ve grown my two businesses, I’ve found myself asking for some seemingly unusual things: for assistants to use certain fonts in presentations, to send me information in bullet points instead of block text, to lay workbooks for an event at specific angles, or to use paperclips instead of staples.
And every time I give very clear direction, a small voice in the recesses of my mind chuckles a bit because what others might see as being diva-ish I see as being decisive.
Whether we admit it or not, we all have standards, and expectations, and preferences for the way we want things to be done. It doesn’t matter if someone else thinks it’s stupid or over the top because no one else can tell us what we care about.
Because the thing is, I would rather be the type of leader and partner who is clear about my expectations instead of a passive-aggressive one who pretends not to care but then fumes and burns inside. We don’t go into restaurants and expect waiters to know what we want, so why do we do that with our partners, our clients, our suppliers, or our colleagues?
Why not just communicate what we want, exactly how we want it, and take the guesswork out of it? Why not be specific about when certain instructions are must-haves and when others can be executed within general parameters? It doesn’t mean we’ll always get what we want, but at least it leaves no room for mis-interpretation. And then any results that are other than what we’ve asked for are failures of execution, not failures of communication.
This isn’t to put blame on others or take responsibility away from ourselves. Quite the opposite: when we communicate what we want and are specific about it, it puts total responsibility on us to be clear, and frees the people in our lives from the stress of not knowing. Good instructions and communication set everyone up to succeed, not fail.
If you want your co-founder to do more of the tedium that has ended up on your desk, ask them to help. If you want your partner to help out at home more so you have time to build your business, ask them to help. If you want your bookkeeper to send you your P&L statements each month so you can review them, ask them to do it. If you want something but aren’t sure whether it exists, ask Google if it does.
Ask, ask, ask, and ask again. And be specific about what you want. The more you ask, the more you’ll get and – more important – the more you’ll see that being a good leader or CEO or partner or parent isn’t about testing other people to read your mind, it’s about giving them the tools and instructions to succeed without having to do so.