“Getting people to do stuff”
The path to getting something done should be simple: you tell people what you want and they do it, right? Then how come it rarely turns out that way? Why do they argue with you, tell you that what you’ve asked them to do is a waste of time or that they have a better way or there’s not enough time to do it? Or they simply don’t do what you asked.
There are at least sixteen reasons why people don’t perform the way you want, according to Ferdinand Fournies, author of Why Employees Don’t Do What They’re Supposed to Do and What To Do About It (McGraw Hill.) They include the fact that people don’t know why they’re doing something, they don’t know how to do it, they think something else is more important or they anticipate a negative consequence for doing it.
Whatever the reason for non-performance, the manager controls it, he says. Yes, you heard right: if managers took appropriate action to make these sixteen reasons for nonperformance go away-or prevent them from happening in the first place-you’d have perfect performance.
Take the employee who doesn’t do what you asked them to do because they think their way is better. In this particular case, you have loads of experience and know that the way you asked them to do this task is the best approach. Overall, you appreciate and encourage your employees to be innovative, but not in this instance. Innovation is fine, as long as it works. In this case, you know it isn’t the best approach.
Say, for example, you asked Bob to complete a form after each sales call while the information is still fresh. Bob says it’s more convenient to do it at the end of the day when he’s not rushed.
You may interpret this behavior as a resistance to change, but it’s not, says Fournies. The employee is using logical thinking from their point of view. If he thinks his way is better, why do it your way? The problem in this example is, “employees having misinformation about how successful their method is compared to your method.” In other words, you haven’t convinced them that your way is more effective.
So to prevent non-performance in the first place, the solution is to:
Ask Bob if he can think of a better approach than the way you’ve discussed.
If Bob offers a different way, convincingly explain why his way isn’t better than your way. Offer examples based on your experience. Explain the cause and efffect relationship between the intended actions and expected results, then compare the results between your way and his way.
If this doesn’t work, ask, “Is there anything I can do to convince you that your way is not better?” If the answer is “no,” tell him the discussion is over and the project goes forward the way you’ve discussed.
Don’t be tempted to let someone do something wrong to prove you are right, he warns–being seduced by the idea that “people learn by experience.” Instead, “Learn from other people’s experience.” Doing things wrong can be expensive and embarrassing.
If all this seems like too much responsibility is being placed on the manager, consider this: “The one who loses most when an employee fails is the manager; the one who gains the most when an employee performs well is the manager.” It’s the manager who must intervene to assist the employee to perform appropriately.