This blog post was originally published on GovSupervisor.com.
Author: Mark Leheney
In the business of supervisory development, we have a favorite old story that makes a powerful point. Here it is:
A supervisor says to an employee, “Bring me a rock.”
So the employee responds, proudly delivering a rock to the supervisor’s desk.
“I didn’t mean one this big!” the supervisor says.
So the employee brings back a smaller rock.
“I didn’t mean tiny!” the supervisor says. “What’s with the extremism?”
So the employee brings a mid-sized rock. But it’s not the right color. Too grey.
So the next rock is brown. But it has sharp edges, and the supervisor wanted rounded edges, like one from a riverbed.
Finally, a rock that meets standards gets handed over.
At this point, many people say “Phew!” and life goes on. But not in this blog. There are several important things that happened – or didn’t – that bear analysis.
- If you think this is a silly story, recall a time when you wrote a document, it wasn’t “right,” and you kept rewriting until finally you had the rock – excuse me, document – that was up to the mystery standard.
- If you can remember such a time (and if you didn’t you’re lucky), you can also probably remember the frustration and stress you felt. This can’t be good for anyone.
- It’s just possible that your boss wondered about your motivation, intelligence, work ethic or ability to focus. Just saying.
- Finally, we are talking about a really expensive rock. If you calc your salary and the time it took to keep getting rocks, it’s a big number.
What’s the takeaway for supervisors?
If people keep bringing you work products you don’t want, you might consider – before getting too judgmental – if you have been clear about your expectations.
The old saying about SMART goals can help here. You’re probably familiar with it. It stands for
It may sound corny, but if your goals meet this test, there’s a lot better chance employees won’t bring you results that don’t help.