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How to Make People Want to Do What You Tell Them to Do

Does your job feel like it should include "herding cats" in the description most of the time? How do you get people you manage to actually want to do what you tell them? Unless you're a pre-school teacher, you're likely dealing with a gaggle of adults, but sometimes it's next to impossible to get them to operate like a team, all working for the same common goal. So here are some ideas that are so simple, they just might work (and no, they don't involve pointy sticks).

Does your job feel like it should include “herding cats” in the description most of the time? How do you get people you manage to actually want to do what you tell them? Unless you’re a pre-school teacher, you’re likely dealing with a gaggle of adults, but sometimes it’s next to impossible to get them to operate like a team, all working for the same common goal. So here are some ideas that are so simple, they just might work (and no, they don’t involve pointy sticks).

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(Photo Credit: nist6dh/Flickr)

Show them respect.

Do You Know What You're Worth?

It can be challenging to always be as respectful as you should to a group that isn’t paying attention or at the very least, whose motivation is fleeting. But what you should do is treat them as adults and they should rise to the occasion. Make them see that they’re a part of the same team and they have “ownership” over their actions and outcomes. If you show them respect by trusting them to make intelligent decisions, they’ll likely come back with some inspired, unique thinking.

Listen.

We’re not saying put bugs in the cubes (that’s just creepy), but instead make sure that you’re a good sounding board for your employees’ ideas and feelings. Do they have ideas that run counter to the initial plan of attack? Maybe they have some legitimate insights to be shared. Also, if they come to you with concerns, make sure that you’re giving them attention to avoid problems they might have spotted at the outset. If they think you won’t act on their input, they won’t come to you with anything in the future — they’ll just let the whole thing crash and burn.

Try to understand where they’re coming from.

The trenches can be dirty, but that’s where the fighters are. As a manager, if you’ve been up and away from the fight for a while, you may need to make a special effort to relate to what your staff is going through. Do you know exactly how the sausage gets made? When you’re asking someone for “one quick change” and they have reservations about how much time it will really take, maybe you should listen to what they’re saying. Timelines are easy to disrupt and hard to put back together. If you are getting honest input from your staff on blockers to the schedule, you should definitely pay attention so you can keep everything moving smoothly.

Don’t worry about being liked, but think about your reports’ best interests.

This one is hard, especially for those of us who hate to not be liked. But you’re the boss, and you sometimes have to make the hard decisions. And really, if you’re worrying so much about people not liking you, then you’re spending too much time away from being authentic with them. Sometimes you have to disagree with someone if you feel they’re not in the right. Now, there’s ways to not be a jerk while doing this, but don’t feel like you have to be a smiling mouse in the corner at every meeting. You’ll earn your team’s respect by being judicious and fair, not by always saying what they want to hear.

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