File It, Don’t Follow It

by | Jun 14, 2024 | Blog, Resources

Sometimes the best advice is dropped in your lap like a 50 pound bag of sand.  It hits you so hard and surprises you in such incredible ways that you just sit with it on your lap in awe.  In a conversation with a friend and client the other day about a certain conversation he needed to have with a staff member, my husband was within ear shot and added this little gem to the conversation:  

“File it, don’t follow it.”

Both my client and I gasped at the weight of this bit of advice.  Here’s the concept…

As a leader, it is important to prioritize tasks and responsibilities in order to effectively manage your time, resources and organization for maximum outcomes. In other words, every leader needs to adopt a mindset of “do what only you can do”.   Every leader is inundated with countless ideas, requests and problems to solve every hour of every day.  It is physically impossible to address all of them.  And frankly it’s not your job to address all of them.  Stepping into every small detail and constantly checking in on every task actually creates a culture of distrust and politics.  It is more efficient to push authority down to your team members to handle their responsibilities and only follow up when necessary.

This is one aspect of the axiom “File it, Don’t Follow it”.  Another area we can have a tendency to dive too deep into is following a comment or complaint from an employee about another employee.  Instead of chasing down every complaint, try this approach:

1.Assess the Situation: When an employee brings a complaint, file the information initially without taking immediate action. This allows you to assess the situation objectively and gather more information if needed.  We like to call this “Quick, Slow, Slow” at our house and I believe it’s a powerful tool in any organization as well.  Be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to get angry.  

2.Avoid Knee-Jerk Reactions: Immediate reactions to complaints can escalate tensions and create an environment of distrust. By “filing” the complaint, you can take a step back and consider the best course of action without rushing to judgment.  Get curious, rather than reactive.

3.Promote Healthy Conflict and Resolution Skills: Encourage employees to resolve conflicts amongst themselves.This has to be built into your culture and requires high EQ at every level in the organization.  By filing the initial complaint and monitoring the situation, you empower your team to develop their conflict resolution skills and foster a more collaborative work environment.

4.When to Follow: If a pattern of complaints emerges or if the issue seems serious, you can then revisit the “filed” information and conduct a thorough investigation. This approach ensures that any action taken is well-informed and justified.

5.Maintain Humanity: “Filing” complaints and monitoring the situation helps maintain professional relationships and keeps humanity in your leadership. Immediate intervention can strain relationships and disrupt team dynamics. A measured approach allows for issues to be resolved with minimal fallout.

6.Create a Supportive Environment: By handling complaints thoughtfully, you create an environment where employees feel heard and supported without feeling that every issue will lead to drastic measures. This balance is crucial for maintaining high morale and high productivity, two indicators of a healthy organization.

When leaders adopt a “File it, don’t follow it” axiom it will prove to be a valuable principle for their leadership. It emphasizes the importance of discernment, critical thinking, and strategic action. Whether dealing with new ideas or employee complaints, filing information for future reference rather than reacting immediately allows leaders to create a more thoughtful, resilient, and effective approach to guiding their teams and achieving their organizational goals.