Education

Be a closer!

Having an employee who can complete a task and tie up loose ends is a godsend to bosses. Are you that type of person?

Having an employee who can complete a task and tie up loose ends is a godsend to bosses. Are you that type of person?

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There are two types of people in this world: Those who close drawers after they get something out and those who don't. My husband is the latter. That man cannot close a cabinet door to save his life. It's like his thinking goes as far as taking care of the task he is performing -- getting that box of cereal out of the cupboard -- but then halts responsibility directly after the task has been accomplished, leaving the cupboard door completely open. I know that if this is the worst marital strife I have to deal with, I should count my blessings, but FOR THE LOVE OF PETE, IT'S AGGRAVATING!

OK, so what does this have to do with one's career? Well, in my opinion, in the average workplace, you'll find those who are closers, and those who are leave-openers (oh, give me a break, I couldn't think of better term). I'm not using the term "closer" in the sense it's used in the sales biz -- as someone who can close a sale. Or as aggressively as it's addressed in the play and movie Glengarry Glen Ross ("Coffee is for closers!").

I'm referring to someone who, basically, can be presented with a task, perform that task, and then tie up all loose ends. If you work with a closer, you appreciate it, even though sometimes you might not even know it. They just fix things and don't leave things in a a state of upheaval once they're done.

Closers are a boss's dream. You assign a duty and then bim bam bang it's done, and you don't have to worry about tracking down straggling details. Having a lack of closers on one's team is what sometimes gives birth to micromanagement.

You can sometimes manually encourage an environment of closers by setting specific completion dates for every duty, no matter how small. If you're in a meeting and someone who's out to impress the boss volunteers to "put that together," ask on the spot for a due date. Make them go on record. For some people, being on record won't matter, but for some it will.

Closing is not just a productivity matter -- it's also a driving force behind innovation. I've been in meetings where great ideas have been tossed out (really, I have!), but then when there's no follow-through, the great idea loses momentum and dies quietly on the vine. Don't let that happen --be a closer!

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About

Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

45 comments
biancaluna
biancaluna

This is nothing new to me, there are starters, finishers, closers and leaver openers. All have a role to play and I build my teams accordingly. Itis good to articulate these attributed beyond technical and management skills as they are important features in an effective team.

wbaltas
wbaltas

I like the article as far as it went, but I have a couple of questions. How do you keep the closer from being overwhelmed with job duties and burning out? Second, do you have any ideas on how to keep the closer? I've found that a closer will stick around for a while, but after a period of time he will leave for what he hopes will be less stressful job. Due to his personality, the lack of stress doesn't last long, and after a few years, he is looking for something else.

kama410
kama410

How do you keep them from burning out? Give more time away from work. Be creative. How do you keep yourself from burning out? Try it out on them. How do you keep them? If you value the services performed by someone you must make them aware of it. Maybe that means more money, maybe it means more recognition and respect. Maybe you just have to be nice to them. Take them to lunch sometime. Show them that you consider them a human being not simply a 'human resource' to be exploited like a lump of coal or some other dull filthy rock.

delroekid
delroekid

it doesnt mean to me that if cant close drawers, you are not a good project handler. is this related to behavior?

gjs1
gjs1

Employee is better off to be assigned to newer project than to be assigned to tie up loose ends in older version. If one does a good job fixing loose ends in older version, people in newer project tend to forget you. Then, when cost-cutting time comes, they drop support for older version, but keep employees on newer version because they are up to speed on newer version.

mitchell8608
mitchell8608

It is a great philosophy to have, and more companies should encourage it. However, multinational giants tend to move their progressing executives around so quickly that they never get the chance to be closers. These corporate giants are encouraging the 'leave the barn door open' practise of working. Get the project up and running (sometimes even not as far as that) before they are moved to the next 'big thing'. Shame really. I know small businesses really apprieciate the work done by 'closers' for them they need someone to complete the task, from inception to documentation as they don't have the resources to assign people to pick up the pieces.

JonathanPDX
JonathanPDX

Employees should be willing to show loyalty, trust, etc., to their employers. However, employers should show the same to their employees. Employees are not simply disposables one uses and tosses away. If treated fairly and well, employees are most often the best assets an employer can have. Using an anatomical analogy, management provides the brain and skeleton for the company, but employees are the muscle and nervous systems. Neither can exist without the other and when one becomes ill the entire system falters or fails. Employees who expect something for nothing are like bacterial infections. Managers who abuse their employees are cancers. Executives who take obscene bonuses, perks and golden parachutes are the Ebola of corporate America and should be quickly and efficiently stamped out as all they do is cause hemorrhaging of the company and death while they move on to other victims.

feral1
feral1

Tying all the loose ends is just a great technique, and it is a pity that many people just don't do it! You raise a point that such practices gives rise to micromanaging (a scourge). In a start-up, I saw that tasks were left incomplete and consequently projects dropped as priorities changed. The would-be closer has no say in this matter. Methinks this is setting up for failure. Lack of effort is one thing, being continuously in a start-up mode is another. The former is due to lack of motivation, the latter due to lack of maturity.

Photogenic Memory
Photogenic Memory

I'm a closer. However, the hard part is preventing burn-out. If you work in an environment where a task is passed from a boss who passes it on to a manager who attempts to pass it to another who in turn passes it on to you; this shit can be real annoying! I work for a company like this. It gets bad because by close of business; 3 managers are looking to leave for the day and finding the nearest person to do their job for them. Sadly the tasks could have been done quickly and correctly during normal business hours. It bothers me but corrective action comes from above and no one is watching or cares. It's probably best not to be a "closer" but it's in my blood to be responsible and take pride in my work. When in doubt; turn your phone off on your weekends. Fuck'em!!!

fhawkins
fhawkins

Fun article! Frustrating team issue! I have a daughter that hasn't closed a drawer, door, or bottle cap in her life. This is costly at work, other employees shouldn't have to be the follow-up wife, husband, or parent cleaning up after "the kids." Discuss and set some team standards. "If it looks like this--bad; if it looks like that--good." Take some photos or offer up some documented examples of the offense and offenders! Fine offenders by making them buy pizza and then cleaning up afterwards. If that doesn't work, a public hanging hasn't happened recently. Might be a fun team building session.

mmccole
mmccole

Great article, I just hope my wife does not read it! Mike

glass2dl
glass2dl

Great article and definitely pertains to my workplace, but laughed out loud when I read the part about your husband...mine does the SAME THING! One day when he's not in the kitchen, go in and open all the drawers and doors and see what he says.

reisen55
reisen55

For some reason, IT technicians love to leave something undone. I think it is because in case their does not fix the entire task, then they have a fallback position, something else to fix, that MAY be the real cause. In other words, fear of 100% commitment to a resolution. We're essentially cowards part of the time and like to have a second line of defense in case the Hun over-runs the first line. I have learned to stop at the door when I am leaving an account, turn around and almost verbally ask myself IS THERE ANYTHING ELSE TO BE DONE? If there is, then GO DO IT NOW. Turn around and do the work. Or go to a Deli, get coffee and a roll and consider alternatives to the task. I find it enormously refreshing to back away from a mind-bender to think about anything BUT the problem while my mind is really working ON the problem. Secondly, I do not get too involved in siege warfare. Those tasks that I AM GOING TO FIX IF IT TAKES ALL DAY....well, users don't have that luxury during the day and neither do I. Fix the problem if necessary in MASH hospital mode and do the real work later on. Third: think weird. I have a medical offices where the staff just would NOT EVER turn off the primary patient software app at night so the backups would be secure. Nothing worked, so I have to work around that. The result is a complex start up and shutdown process to accomodate everything BUT my backups are secure and the staff is happy.

patclem
patclem

Yes, someone who can work with limited direction and perform a quality job is pretty basic. But several larger statements encompass that concept: #1 Someone smart - a critical thinker. I want someone to think things through that can understand and interact with others. Understands how the work they perform affects others, the business, etc. #2 A professional - integrity, persistence, trust. Constantly seeking to learn. Presentable. Seeks to deliver high quality work (topic.) #3 Customer Focus - manners towards the customer, whoever that is. Even when things get tight or stressful, always extremely polite and respectful towards the customer. With the above skills, the minutia takes care of itself.

kama410
kama410

When do you want me to start? Relocating to a warm climate is NOT a problem. *grins*

Persepone
Persepone

Just because someone is smart and understands how the work they perform affects others, the business, etc. it does not follow that they are a "closer" in this sense. Lots of professionals seek to deliver high quality work but are not "closers." Lots of those who have strong customer focus are not "closers." I know many whose writing, for example, is brillant--or would be if they had an editor--but somehow they slept through their grammar school English class. Many seem to not believe the sign in so many workplaces that says something like "Your Mother Does Not Work Here--Please Clean Up After Yourself!" While this usually refers to company kitchens, etc. it actually should apply to all office life. They can't find their own stuff and mobilize others to help them hunt through the squirrels' nests in their cubicles or offices, for example. Non-closers leave messes everywhere. Others are constantly cleaning up behind them. Often this is "excused" because they are brillant, good with customers, etc. but the bottom line is that they are lazy slobs. Many think that everyone else is as smart as they are and can somehow read their mind, as well as their notes. Often however, this requires cryptographers who can read the notes these people leave for others and clairyoyants who somehow actually understand what the writer was thinking when they wrote the notes. Often the truly "smart" are spoiled rotten from earliest childhood by their families, their teachers and others around them. Unfortunately, many with Mensa membership potential are allowed to get away with a lack of responsibility for the everyday mundane "closing" that, in the end, means getting the job done right, efficiently, and without having others to clean up behind them. If you have brilliant children, do them a big favor and force them to learn to be "closers" because it is much more difficult to learn this skill later in life. I know because I did and it was painful.

kama410
kama410

I think we're all (how about this term:) finishers and non-finishers to some degree in different situations. Like a previous poster said of their husband being a finisher at work but not at home. I know that is how I am. My poor wife. At work I won't leave until everything is wrapped up. At home... Not so much. You are so right about it being learned though. And about the brilliant not being expected to complete all the small details. Consider though, the economy of this situation: You have a brilliant engineer who comes up with amazing ideas on a regular basis. They come up with the idea, work out the basics of how to get it done, and move on to another project. The less talented engineers are left to sort out the details. The genius gets paid ten times what the others get paid. Do you want your genius doing things like deciding what size a screw ought to be in some non-critical area, or do you want them working on another earth-shattering idea that will bring in more profits? This is why we all tolerate non-completion from brilliant people. The problem is that the less talented don't get as much credit as they deserve and often non-finishing is tolerated in people who aren't doing the great creative thinking that leads to high profit ideas. Everyone wants to be a genius. Not everyone is.

thomsonk
thomsonk

I offer an enthusiastic "amen" to that!

thomas.l.deskevich
thomas.l.deskevich

One fault I have and I working on is to just do what I am told without questioning it. Support and marketing like me because I almost always go along with what they want. But I need to pause more and look at the request more critically. On the other side of the coin, I know people that are not approachable because they fight people on everything. As the support manager told me, I have to trick that programmer into thinking it was his idea. I have to keep thinking of myself explaining to a auto mechanic what is wrong with my car. I know nothing about cars. I know how intimidated I feel. I try to keep that in mind as I talk to users.

kama410
kama410

I don't know if having empathy for your co-workers can be counted as a fault. Except that I'll bet you're like me and want to help everybody. Even the ones that take advantage of that 'fault'.

thomas.l.deskevich
thomas.l.deskevich

I am not a genius. It takes me time to learn things. But I think one thing has carried me through my 20+ years as a programmer. First, my attitude, and second the fact that I do finish what I start and do the things with the highest priority, even if they are very tedious. OUCH! I just hurt my arm patting myself on the back.

jjlamberth
jjlamberth

In my "he-he" {;-) spare time I volunteer as a 2 hat member of the board of directors for my Association. Self image as an organized closer and leader while isolating one's self from any responsibility of negative impact has infected the mindset of a Manager's contribution to their team today. I was trained as a lead slash manager to provide assistance to facilitate success of my team. A leader leads by example and does not demand or expect their team carry their lard rumps as the Pharaoh's did ie.. the feudal system of direct rule. Someone who has been here since before Windows and the Internet.

krishnaccb
krishnaccb

I do appreciate this Article. most of the times i have observed there are very few closers in a team. Its good to have as many as possible, all closers in a team is a dream team.

pietro
pietro

You have my appreciation, I would like send it to my wife, but because we work together and as wife by definition she will not try to understand what I mean, I give up. I will print a copy to put on company withe board so will not look personal.

chandrark.sangani
chandrark.sangani

And so it proves who is the BOSS as far as the Bowers couple goes, methinks.

toni.bowers_b
toni.bowers_b

In the interest of full disclosure, my husband can't stand it that I don't put his tools back after I've used them. But until he gets his own blog, we'll pretend we didn't know that.

kama410
kama410

Being female you probably aren't aware that amongst men, if someone borrows your tools and doesn't put them back it is nearly a declaration of war. Not putting your own tools back after you've used them is just keeping them handy for next time you need them. *grins*

carmen
carmen

My husband does that too (leaving every door and every tap opened) :)). But not because he is not a "closer", because at work he is one...it's the principle of minimum effort i think :)

maurimev
maurimev

Ladies: I was one of those who left the cabinet door open. One day I saw my wife closing an open cabinet door I knew she didn't left open, but for me it represented a risk and I didn't remember I did left it open; when I ask her WHY that door was open she just close her eyes - calm down - and ask me in a very gentle way: "I will ask you a favor: Please, every time you'd open a cabinet door: CLOSE IT!!!" I did learn two things.......

The 'G-Man.'
The 'G-Man.'

These kind of people 'talk the talk' for all the kinds of 'types'. Thing is, when it comes down to it, they never actually walk it.

g_machuca
g_machuca

Very good. The real estate motto is Location, Location, location. In IT Contracting is Deliver, Deliver, Deliver. Good point about asking for a delivery date. You'd be amaaaaaaazed at amount of people that go all shy at their own ideas when it comes to calling their bluff!!! :-)

towniebear
towniebear

What an applicable and useful article and analogy. Can I include "awayers" in the "closers" group:- the awayers are staff who leave tools, spare or dud components, packaging etc littered around the work area for others to clear up and put away afetr they have completed an item of work. Theu may have closed the drawer/cupboard, but some of the contents are still littered around the bottom of their cages....

kayte
kayte

I am a person who can't close a kitchen drawer to save my soul...but in my industry I am known as the "Great Finisher". The only satisfaction I receive is in a job completed and my workspace clean and cleared to make room for the next one. That's why I left the Aerospace Industry in the 80's--we never finished any contract before picking up a new one. I never enjoyed my work. Great analogy, but the traits don't always coincide--especially with those ADD people like me!

cbulla
cbulla

WOW! Yes, I like the descriptive for the two types. Flipside to that is the closers who are put in a management or promoted into a leaderhsip position and have a very tough time actually leading the charge as an opener then attempt to have natural openers close for them, as 'expected', but leaving them vague or no times or details to do so. Whoops, described the structure where I currently work!

alex.kashko
alex.kashko

As a software contractor (freelance) I tend to meet the perception that contractors leave when the project need closure. In practice I note it is the permies leave when they have learned what they want to know and the contractor then rolls up their sleeves and says "someone has to do this garbage"

Bad Boys Drive Audi
Bad Boys Drive Audi

I've been on both sides of the table and can honestly say that there are closers and non-closers in both the contractor and employee realm. I have cleaned up after contractors when I was an employee and I've cleaned up after employees when brought in as a contractor.

Support Slug
Support Slug

... how differently males and females think about things and how they function in the workplace? This strikes me as a very female article.

feral1
feral1

In the start-up where I am a technical consultant/contractor, the Developing Team member who completed all the allocated tasks and finished all sub-projects was a female. The rest of the Devl Team comprised of 3 males, all of them with a deep creative vein, all of them who completed their tasks 85to95%. It is my firm belief that the 'closer' is the ultimate team member who has higher standards than the outfit where they conduct their closing operations.

Bad Boys Drive Audi
Bad Boys Drive Audi

There is no gender bias in this article, and I appreciate the writer for this piece. It drives me completely insane when I have to work with someone and hand hold them on every little task. JUST YESTERDAY, I had to do this very thing - my coworker completed his task, but didn't follow up; leaving a few things to chance. If things went badly, he exclaimed it wouldn't be our problem, and yet it would've because my team would be the one called to clean up the mess. I need more people that can tie up loose ends and follow things through to completion. It drives me nuts that I have to think for myself and almost everyone on my team too!

unellen
unellen

I am not a closer. And I'm female. I Read the article to see if there were any tips for me. (nothing I haven't already tried yet.)I'm the one who drives my husband wild about not putting things away.

cupcake
cupcake

...I, too, consider myself a 'closer'. Sometimes I even go a step further and add documentation. Sometimes that's good, sometimes its just too much. Sometimes its just hard to figure out where the 'end' is and if 'good enough' actually is. Oh, and loved the description of the husband... mine is actually my teenage son who thinks that once the milk is poured, that the counter is the perfect place for it!

mahadeva_sarma
mahadeva_sarma

But this adds a lot to the work burden, sometimes one needs to plod through lot of previously goofed up work. Sometimes instead of bouquets I have received brickbats for having closed certain issues, giving comfort to the customer. The issues were meant to be left open to 'expose'those who erred!