This real incident has served up two decades worth of laughs for my wife and me. It occurred we were working with a local charity. They had just installed a new phone system that had the ability to forward calls to another number when the charity’s office was closed. We had been asked to write up an instruction sheet so everyone knew how to use the new feature.
I had typed up step-by-step directions, which included as the last line the instruction, “Hang up phone”.
As my proofreader, my wife read through the instructions.
“Drop the last line,” she said, “it is insulting. Everyone will know to hang up the phone.”
I agreed that it was too obvious a task so deleted it.
The following Saturday we were giving a training session. The first volunteer stepped up to phone to use the new instruction sheet. Step-by-step she handled the instructions flawlessly. After she followed the last line on the sheet she looked up, holding the receiver in her left hand.
“What do I do now,” she queried.
Betty and I looked at each other with a connection that only two people in love would understand. With both of us laughing inwardly it is unclear who said it, but one of us was able to get the words out, “Hang up phone.”
We learned that although people are very smart, there are times you need to cover explain things in basic detail.
To this day every time we see a situation where someone had assumed something to be too obvious to mention we look at each other and say in unison, “Hang up phone.”
Assumptions can be detrimental in the workplace. Just because someone that does something on a regular basis, or someone sets up a new system or process, does not mean that others will follow the same steps and assumptions as the originator or expert. Be precise and complete when you train others or document processes.
This is an excerpt from “Life’s Leadership Lessons” a collection of 53 anecdotal leadership lessons, each with an anecdote and the application of the topic in your everyday life. It is designed for use in weekly staff meetings or for personal development.
The incomplete phone instructions
As Aesop established hundreds of years ago with his timeless fables we remember words best when we become engaged in a story. Max has compiled an anecdotal story collection designed to generate “ah- ha” moments. Click here to see more.