I remember a team member I worked with a few years back. Marc. Everyone told me that he only did exactly what you told him and no more. He was talented, personable, and friendly, but he wasn’t one to raise the bar. He coasted, didn’t make waves, and after putting in his eight hours, he headed home. People tried working with him, and they say they never got anywhere with him. It was always the same.
When I was asked to work with the team, I remember pulling him aside early into my transition. I told him I’d be relying on him for a few things that I wanted to help the team with, and because he was a charismatic guy, I thought he was the right person for the job. He was hesitant but agreed, and from time to time, I had to pull him aside and point out cases where I felt he was coasting. We talked about each, and in some cases, I had the wrong perspective. In others, he admitted he could be doing more.
In fact, I remember making a bet with him. He was a designer with a marginally technical background, and I bet him that I’d deploy code to production before he did. (We had a pretty robust pipeline that required only a bit of technical effort to get a push to prod.) I told him that I’d take him to lunch if I lost. A month later, he was the company’s first designer to deploy code, and I was out $25 for that lunch.
Since I departed that team, I continue to hear nothing but great things about him and what he does. The cost was minimal: some clear expectations, a few tough conversations, and a lunch. I’m sure I could have simply listened to the opinions of others and nudge only lightly, but I’m glad I didn’t.