Okay, lets get a couple of things out of the way right at the top.
I am not Steven Covey. I don’t possess some kind mystic knowledge that can be distilled into Seven Habits and thus launch a self-help empire.
I also do not claim to possess the ability to make people who work for me motivated to the point of wanting to topple small countries on my behest.
But I think I have found the key to managing people somewhat successfully.
Well, first, before I divulge this wad of wisdom, let me tell you how people operate in the workplace. Specifically, how do you get people to do what you want and need them to do?
People are curious. When they are faced with a task, they often have a number of questions about the task. Some of these are obvious – they need to know how to do the task; but we can assume that they already have that ability. If not, provide them training.
They also want to know when they need to have the work done by – what’s my deadline for this? That’s pretty simple too – by the end of the day, the week, or month. Whatever. But be careful with this one – don’t concoct some fake deadline to try to motivate. It may work once, but never more than that.
There are also the logistics of the task – who am I to do this with? Where? Again, those are relatively easy to address. But here’s the key to it all –
People want to know why.
So tell them.
And tell them the truth – ‘Boss is trying to prepare a proposal by the end of the week. Your role will provide the needed statistical analysis of foreclosures in Hialeah, which will give the report its needed depth. You obviously have a strong grasp on the analysis and the area being looked at. The report will be shared by upper management.’
Sometimes the why question has offshoots, like “Why me? Why not Joe down the hall?” Or, “Why can’t this be done by the IT group?”
Be as honest and as patient you can with these queries. Answer them all. If you haven’t figured out the answers to those, do so before springing it on your staff. Because they will ask. And if not you, they will ask others. They want to know why, and they are going to find one way or the other.
So take control of it. Answer the why questions.
Now, here’s the worst possible answer to give:
“Because I said so.”
Wrong on so many levels. For one, we are not dealing with eight year olds. For two, trying to place yourself on a higher authoritative level than them is ridiculous; you already have a title that clears that up. They know it is because you said so – tossing that at them absolutely kills their motivation. It’s patronizing.
A wonderful benefit of answering the why questions is, you just might find a better way to accomplish the task – “Oh, so if that’s the reason, why don’t we try it this way?” I have gotten such feedback so many times and have used that advice often. Hey, I’m just a guy with a plan, but I am not so naïve and insecure to believe that since it emanated from my brain it is infallible.
People who know why they are doing something are motivated. They’re empowered. And they feel like they have a boss who listens to them.
Which is why it works. Every time.