How well can you follow directions?  Not necessarily instructions provided with your new desktop computer, but directions in general.  There are always those people who set off on their own, thinking they understand what’s going on and that they can figure things out on their own.  In a team environment (read: corporation) this can damage your reputation and destroy your bottom line.

Even the CEO of a company needs to be able to follow directions, albeit half of the time he or she wrote those directions.  They key here is that the CEO needs to live up to the standard he or she has set for the rest of the company.  Failure to lead by example dooms the rest of the corporation into a trend of noncompliance – If the guy who wrote the rules doesn’t follow them, why do I have to?

Likewise, even the experienced new consultant must follow the directions that govern the rest of the corporation.  If he doesn’t, he runs the risk of having his recommendations not fit into the rest of the puzzle that is the client’s business strategy.  There’s nothing worse for a consultant than spending several hours each day composing innovative strategic recommendations only to watch the client throw them away because they don’t apply.

Failing to follow directions can have any number of consequences – from missing key business opportunities to risking more on a business deal than was necessary.  The impact of the consequences rarely has any relation to the perceived importance of the rule, though.  Failing to properly vet a new partner might cost you an hour’s lecture with a supervisor.  Failing to reply to a confirmation email for an appointment might cost you a job.

Ultimately the issue comes down to this: how well can you follow directions?  What does that mean for your career, business, and future overall?