Why don’t People do what I told them too?

Why don’t People do what I told them too?

May 21st, 2011 // 7:47 pm @

I was working with the owner of a company recently who bemoaned to me “I told my staff what to do, why are they not doing it?”

It is a common managerial issue across all kinds of organizations that managers tell their staff what to do, and staff don’t do it. This often leads managers to feel staff are being deliberately difficult, and from that managers tend to move quickly to trying to force their staff to do as they are told, and things tend to deteriorate from there.

The reality is telling someone what you want them to do; even if they fully understand what you want will rarely actually change day-to-day activity very much. And trying to force staff into a chosen course rarely actually produces the desired result; it’s likely to drive significant resentment, which is very damaging to real productivity.

So how do you actually get staff to do what you and the company wants?

  • Treat staff with respect they are intelligent people. Work is what they do most of their day and they want to understand why they are being asked to do something.
  • Clearly understand the outcome you are seeking. People will tend to get to that outcome in their own way, and trying to force them to do it “Your way” is a futile exercise. Focus on explaining the outcome you and the company want. And be ready for the people actually doing the job to come up with a better way of doing it than you ever thought of.
  • Take the time to explain the outcome you want and why. If people understand where they fit in, and why what you are asking is important they will be much more motivated to make it work.
  • Train those included if required, it is no good asking someone to do something they do not know how to do.
  • Track the success of the activity, but track the outcome not the activity. If you track the outcomes and feedback that information to those involved you demonstrate the importance of what they are doing and that you care.
  • Be ready to make changes if the outcomes are not what you need them to be without abandoning what you needed done in the first place.
  • Change takes time, if you change the way someone works; it will take them time to change. Allow for that, and be ready for the odd mistake or someone to forget. Just keep gently tracking outcome, providing feedback that shows the trip ups, without making a huge issue out of it.

People react better to gentle and consistent pressure towards change than they do to rapid and dramatic change.

If you take the trouble to help people change, most people most of the time will surprise you with their willingness to embrace change.


Category : Blog &Leadership

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