Why does nobody do what you tell them?

MP900385953So this week we learned that pressing the button at a pedestrian crossing is pointless. Well so is just telling your people what to do, explains careers coach Lucinda Harlow…

‘Powerless pedestrians’ hit the headlines this week as we learned the shocking truth – there is no connection with pressing the button and getting a little green man.

Great. So when I am racing to work, briefcase bulging in one hand, umbrella and coffee in the other, phone in my mouth as I jab away at that button thinking I’m in charge, it’s my finger stopping the traffic, I’m, well, wrong. I’m doing something every day thinking I’m affecting change but actually what I’m doing has no bearing.

This is a phenomenon we also see in the workplace.

We all have automated actions. Stuff we do without thinking about that would pretty much take an earthquake for us to reassess.  One that comes up in coaching with alarming regularity is the dirty business of managing people.

The workplace equivalent of The Button is thinking “But I’ve told them, so it should have happened.”

You’ve pressed the button, but nothing has changed.

Is this any surprise? Who likes being told what to do? Individuals have their own agenda. Good managers don’t just tell and yell.

A very common mistake is our old friend ‘assumption’. It stops us thinking intelligently and reacting to the here and now. It’s autopilot when we need to be navigating.

The assumption here is that there is a connection between asking and doing. We think because we have asked it should/will be done. So we find it REALLY annoying when people do not do what we want. We blame them.

We did our part and asked SMARTLY and everything, right?

Press here instead…

Every heard of the Ransberger pivot? It’s a three-step process based on the theory that people do not like to be told they are wrong (who knew..?)

Step 1: listen to others and their objectives/objections

I don’t mean the kind of listening that we all can do. Know the one? The mouth is shut, the head is nodding impatiently but internal chatter is working ten to the dozen because we know exactly what they are going to say. I mean the kind of listening without agenda. This leads to:

Step2: understanding

Knowing what makes people tick. Understanding what’s important to them, what they are afraid of, why they chose certain actions is at the heart of good management. It’s the why.

Step 3: find common ground and seek to gain buy in to your cunning plan.

The common ground allows gentle correction of beliefs that stall action. New ideas get heard and incorporated. Individuals get to be unique, motivated and targets are met.

Once you are doing this you really WILL be stopping the traffic.

About the author

Lucinda is an Executive and Corporate Coach. You can reach Lucinda on: uevolve, LinkedIn, Twitter

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