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Ideas. Insights. Inspiration.

The Problem with Your Way

Years ago, I had a boss who wouldn't allow me to type my own letters to clients.

Instead, I was told to dictate my letters using a tape recorder (exactly like the one pictured) and hand the recordings to one of our administrative assistants, who would then transcribe my words and mail the letters.

In case you read that last sentence and think I was working at an agency during the Mad Men era, I assure you this wasn't the case: this was in 2001 when most office professionals had computers on their desks.

My boss, who it should be noted was much older than I, insisted that typing my own letters would be a waste of my time that could be better spent doing other things. He would use his tape recorder frequently to dictate letters and memos, and he expected me to do the same.

But here's the thing: I type faster than the average person.

According to the internet, the average person can type at about 41 words per minute, with an accuracy rate of 92%. I'm admittedly slower these days than I was back then, but I just completed a timed online typing test (to see how much slower) and achieved 64 WPM with a 97% accuracy. That's about what an average professional typist would score, and certainly not bad for somebody who's never taken a typing course and uses whatever finger happens to be closest to the letter needed. (I suppose 38 years of playing the piano will train your fingers to move efficiently on any keyboard.)

And here's the real irony: it took me longer to articulate my thoughts when I was forced to compose messages to my clients without the ability to see the words in front of me.

In other words, using my boss' preferred method of "writing letters" resulted in me taking a lot more time to write my letters.

A LOT more time.

So much, in fact, that at one point, when I started falling behind with the rest of my work, I'd secretly type whatever I needed to write, then dictate the result into my tape recorder... so the administrative assistant could proceed to type it up.

That illusion was a complete waste of everybody's time and effort... but it made the boss happy to see me using that tape recorder, doing things his way.

The problem with your way is that it might not work as well for everybody as it does for you.

You might prefer to be in an office five days a week and scoff at the idea of "remote work".

You might love to head out for lunch with your colleagues every day, and wouldn't dream of eating at your desk while listening to your favourite podcast.

You might prefer to have a lot of meetings, communicate frequently using lengthy emails, or get called after hours about important (but not urgent) issues instead of waiting to hear about them the next day.

All of these things might be consistent with how you work best.

But your way might not work as well for everybody as it does for you.

So before you judge my old boss too harshly for forcing me to use a tape recorder...

... ask yourself what you might be forcing your team to do "your way" for no good reason.


P.S. If you can believe it, this is my 400th blog post. Thank you to everybody who continues to welcome me into their inboxes three times each week: I appreciate your ongoing support.


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