I recently took over as Commanding Officer for an office of approx 200 members. I guess my standards for attention to detail and desire to be grammatically correct are a little higher than the previous CO. I therefore find myself constantly sending things back for revision and I can sense my staff getting a little tired of it.  Maybe even demoralized, because they think they can never get it right.  So, what is good enough? When, or how often, do I let something go through even though it is not how I think it should be done?

I think I really have 2 issues. One is just grammatical standards. I think that always has to be as right as possible.

The second is ideas, and how things are done. Just because it is not how I would do it does not make it wrong. They need a chance to try their way too.

Any feedback is appreciated.

acao162's picture

I don't see a problem with demanding correct spelling and grammar.  I insist that every document that leaves our office is accurate and error free.  I explain it in two ways: 

1.  If I am signing the document, it is a reflection on me when you make mistakes.  I don't tolerate these kinds of errors when I write, so I can't tolerate them from you.

2.  If it comes from the department, ultimately, it is a reflection on me when you make mistakes.  It also serves to inform the reader that we are careless.  It lowers their trust in us and our ability to get things done.  Mistakes are not effective, redoing work is not effective. 

Having said that, you may need to alter your approach based on each person's DISC profile.  I know that constantly sending back work is demoralizing for both of you. So, when you get something that is correct, point that out too.  Comment on a turn of phrase or an improvement since the last document.

Be very specific about what you want to see.  Find a gold star in the group and request their assistance in teaching the skill to others.  Someone in your office is a great proof reader.

On the second point, you are right.  Our ideas are not the "only" way.  You don't have to like every approach but if it is effective, it is still ok.  Loosen up on a few small matters and you will find it gets easier as you go along.  Try the Assign Work and Reporting podcast.  I found it to be very helpful.

GlennR's picture

Oh good, it's been several months since I've been able to use my all-time favorite management quote: "Ninety percent of all management problems are caused by miscommunication." --Dale Carnegie.

Long before MT came along I noticed that there seemed to be a Murphy's Law about how the new manager's style and personality was usually the polar opposite of the one who came before.

To me, it appears that you and your predecessor have different expectations. This is confusing to your staff. What we have here is a change management issue (that could be a pun). By that I mean your staff were used to a different, perhaps lower, set of expectations, and now they're having to transition to a new set. In any change management environment, that transition period is often tricky, chaotic in some cases.

I recommend you clearly communicate your expectations to your staff using a variety of channels. Be sure to spell out why and how each expectation will benefit them. (WIIFM rules!) If you cannot determine a benefit to them, you should steer clear of making it a priority. It's proably not worth bothering with.

I also highly recommend "Moving Mountains" by General William Pagonis. It is one of the best management books I've read. He addresses this issue. (Note: the book was written pre-Internet but that's okay.) Pagonis was the general in charge of logistics in Gulf War I. It's a fast read, but I was so impressed when I read it, that I outlined it the old fashioned way using a pen and legal pad. And I am not in the military.

Good luck!


acampen's picture

great feedback. thanks for your time.

BrianT's picture
Licensee Badge

I think it's great to set high expectations for quality.  Has the team bought-in to the quality standards?  Or do they just see them as yet another set of rules?  

You may consider holding a few sessions with the team to collectively define the standards for quality.  When a team has had input into constructing standards, then they are much more likely to adhere to them.  Having the discussions will also help them make the transition from your predecessor's way of doing things to yours.  

Best of luck.  



Dave75's picture
Licensee Badge

 High expectations lead to high performance


"Good enough" = "Results"

mfculbert's picture

I agree with the answers above but want to hone the edge a bit.  Your description of the situation left some details out.  

If you are releasing a report to the client or to the public it needs to be better. If you are marketing and this is the final release then it needs perfection. On the other hand if these are internal memos then corrections are inappropriate.

Good luck.