Why Can’t I Get People To Do Things?

Mike Harden | | Finding Time in the Day, Listen To Mike, Solving Problems

“Leadership is getting someone to do what they don’t want to do in order to achieve what they want to achieve.”  Tom Landry (Legendary Coach of the Dallas Cowboys)

In  “How to Get People to Do Stuff” Dr. Susan Weinschenk, Ph.D., discusses seven drivers of human motivation. Always a proponent of simplicity, though, I say, why not cut this down to one driver: self-interest. What’s in it for them?

Everyone operates out of self-interest. That’s not cynical; it’s true! We make decisions in both life and work based on how it impacts us personally. Some readers out there are cringing: what about giving to charity? What about donating your time, money, and effort for the good of others? If you talk to any philanthropist, though, you will find that he/she wants to help people. Why? It makes them feel good; it gives them joy. It always comes back to “what I’m going to get out of it.” And, to be clear, that’s not a bad thing. It’s a human thing.

It’s All In The Delivery

If you are trying to get your people to take on a specific task, you can motivate them by helping them figure out how it benefits them. Articulate in a way that resonates. How many times have you said something to the effect of: “We have to work 20 hour days for the next two days to get this proposal out because it will be great for us,” or, “We have to change our policies and procedures so we’re up-to-date and agile.”

This means virtually nothing – as you’ve probably discovered when people balk at the task. You have to reframe it – get at the real benefit for them. “If you get this proposal out, you’ll get a bonus; you’ll get a raise; you’ll get comp tickets to an event, this perk or that perk.” Or, “When we change our policies, you’ll be able to have more freedom; you’ll be able to pursue more creative endeavors; you’ll be able to streamline processes and free up some time for yourself.”

In other words, they are doing X because it benefits them. That it benefits you and the organization, too, well; don’t let that get in their way. If you can articulate the benefit to them, and appeal to the self-interest that motivates all of us, then your people will respond. They will work for you and accomplish more than you realized was possible.

The bottom line is that as leaders, you need to be aware that you’re operating in an environment where everyone – employees, management teams, suppliers, customers, and executives – are making decisions based on how it affects them personally. Ask yourself: “What’s in it for them?” and you’ll find there’s a lot in it for you.

Mike Harden

Mike Harden has developed exceptional depth and breadth of knowledge over his 40+ year career as an entrepreneur, executive, teacher, mentor, and coach. Today, as one of DC’s premier Executive Coaches, Mike helps good executives become great leaders. Find Mike on Google+

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