The words we use empower us or diminish us. It’s our choice. Today, we explore getting rid of “just” and learn about follow-through.

Call a business and you’re likely to be met with a pleasant voice and a question along the line of, “How can I help you?” If your question is routine, the answer is easy. Other times, you’re presenting an issue that requires collaboration or follow-through. “Just” is the enemy of that type of progress.

“I’m just…”

Have you made a request and heard the reply, “I’m just the [fill in the blank]”?

  • “I’m just the receptionist.”
  • “I’m just the salesperson.”
  • “I’m just the substitute.”
  • “I’m just the assistant.”

One four-letter word says a great deal. It says, “I have no authority.” It says, “I have no influence.” It says, “I have no place when it comes to solving problems beyond a small scope.” Rest assured, there will be no follow-through.

The face of the company

The person who answers the phone has an incredibly important role in any company. For many people, the first impression they have of the company is the one the person who answers the phone gives them. Secondly, this is the person who knows the issues callers are having.

Want to know where systems are broken? Ask the person who answers the phone. That’s the one who hears the complaints from people who are dealing with the results of broken systems.

But too often, those messages are never communicated. Fixing the problem is not something this employee can do. The reply, “I’m just the [fill in the blank]” is designed to let the caller know they are talking to the wrong person. Furthermore, they don’t know who the right person is or give any indication they will find out.

What was broken stays broken. The person to whom the problems are reported takes no responsibility for reporting those problems to the person who can fix them.

Real-life examples

Voicemail is a common offender. When the outgoing message contains information that is no longer correct, who’s going to catch that oversight? The caller.

When the caller mentions the error to the receptionist, what’s the response? A good professional, while not in charge of maintaining the voicemail, will know who needs to know, and will report the issue in a timely fashion. An exceptional one will try calling the number several days later to see if the problem is resolved. They will follow up until it is.

Imagine a university that has a beautiful website, yet they have failed to put the institution’s main phone number on the homepage. I had to search Google for the number. When I talked to the receptionist, I mentioned this omission. Her reply was that lots of people say the same thing. It was obvious that reporting the omission, and following up, was outside of this person’s job description.

Imagine a school whose marquee in December still announces an event from the first of August. Hundreds of people see the out-of-date sign daily, and there’s no telling how many have said something about it. But did anyone within the organization communicate the easily-solved issue to the person who could have taken ten minutes to fix it?

When “easy fixes” are not fixed

I’ve often said that when the right pair of eyes land on a problem, the problem tends to go away. You and I may not be that pair of eyes, but we can move the issue a step closer by saying something.

Here’s to all of the people on the “front lines,” those to whom we bring problems that are not their fault, yet make it their mission to find solutions. They understand follow-through.