Chose your preferred action by an employee:

  1. I hit the ball over the net and I’m now waiting for them to hit it back.
  2. I hit the ball over the net and then followed after it to see if I could get it back.

Let’s word it this way to make my object lesson more clear:

  1. I emailed the client; but, they haven’t gotten back with me yet.
  2. I emailed the client and followed up with a call to see if I could answer any question they might have.

If you’re a successful leader, you are always training your people to be following answer 2. If you’re working for the government, your employer has the reputation of always following answer 1.

I call this “communication ping pong” and nothing drives me more crazy!

Another twist of this is an old story of the wise old farmer and his two sons:

An old farmer had become so old that he could no longer work his farm and determined he would have to hand it down to one of his sons. So, he brought his two sons together and announced that he would be willing the farm over to the youngest son.

The older son was obviously furious and demanded his father change his mind.

The father listened quietly to his older son’s protest and then quietly said, “Okay. You’ll need to prove yourself first. We need additional stock. So, go to the neighbor’s farm and see if they have any cows for sale.”

The older son left to do this and when he returned he reported, “Father the neighbor has 5 cows for sale.”

The father graciously thanked the older son for his report and then turned to the younger son and tasked him with the same job, “go to the neighbor and inquire if they have any cows for sale.”

The younger son returned a short time later and reported, “Father, the neighbor has 5 cows for sale and they want $500 for each. If we want more, though, he could be convinced to sell us more and for $50 less each. He can deliver them to us as early as tomorrow. But, if we can wait about a week, he will have a shipment of younger cows that we would surely get longer service from.”

The father, thanked the son and then turned to the older son and said, “That’s why your brother is getting the farm.”

What’s the lesson here? Initiative. Looking past the basics and doing more than what is asked. Getting results not just the answer. Following through and making something happen not waiting for someone to respond.

What about you? Are you surrounded by the folks that hit the ball over the net and wait? Or people who follow the ball over the net and get answers and results?

Tell us your stories. We’d love to hear what’s working for you.