Q. I am a marketing manager at a consumer products company. I have a problem with my assistant. She is smart, and she is good at following instruction -- but that's just it: She is too good at following instruction. She takes little initiative, and she doesn't think things through for herself.
Here is an example. Last week I asked her to book a conference hall at a particular hotel for an upcoming meeting. A couple of hours later she reported to me that the room was not available. Period -- end of story.
What she should have done, of course, is call some similar size hotels, find out what was available and then bring me her findings. Instead, I have to guide her through the process, step by detailed step.
Just once, I'd like her to take some initiative. Am I expecting too much from her?
A. Not at all -- but you also don't indicate what you are doing to bring your assistant up to speed.
Do you take each irritating incident, like the one you described, and turn it into a lesson in which you reinforce what you expect by working through, in detail, what she should have done? You don't say that you do.
For almost every employee who doesn't meet his or her supervisor's expectations, there is a boss who has never taken the trouble of thinking through what those expectations are and then communicated the results to the employee.
Q. I have an employee who is so ornery that he drives me crazy. He is smart, maybe even brilliant. He drums up new business opportunities in his sleep. But he is constantly arguing with me, ignoring certain assignments I give him -- the ones that he just doesn't like.
A few weeks ago, he outright refused to take on a new client that I tried to delegate to him. He just stood there in my office and said, "No, I don't want to handle that account."
I don't think of myself as a wimp, but I have to admit his brashness catches me off guard. How should I handle him?
A. Ideally, as two reasonable individuals, with some effort you should be able to get an understanding of each other.
Your employee should learn to understand why you assign him the tasks you do, and you should understand the basis of his dislikes for some of these tasks. With such understanding and a bit of give and take, decisions that are acceptable to each of you -- and that would serve the needs of the business -- could be made.
Get into the habit of asking yourself whether the business is better off with him in this position? Tell your employee that you are doing this. If you begin to hesitate in saying "yes," replace him.
Andrew Grove is chief executive of Intel Corp. of Santa Clara, Calif., and an author and lecturer on management. Send questions to him in care of the San Jose Mercury News, Business News Department, 750 Ridder Park Dr., San Jose, Calif. 95190.