As a manager the feeling of not being able to get people to complete simple requests can be infuriating especially if it happens over and over again. It’s a feeling that builds up & worsens over time.
On the flip side, as an employee, the feeling of getting something wrong over and over again is both infuriating and demotivating. 99% of the time, when people aren’t doing what you are asking them to do it is because they can’t rather than because they won’t. There is a block somewhere between the request and the completion or implementation of the task.
There have been moments in my career where I have asked the same simple request of the same person over and over again and they have not completed it. In the heat of frustration I reached out for help.
“Minty. There is more than one common theme within this problem. You. Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is madness. Your recipient doesn’t need to change, you do.” Said my advisor.
Since being given the following advice I have never had the same issue within my own company. The advice was so simple & so effective:
“Ask them what is going on.”
Usually there is a simple, logical explanation as to why the person you are managing hasn’t done what you have asked them to do. The world isn’t against you, it’s not that no one is listening to you and it is not that no one ever does what they are asked. Most of the time the employee actually knows the reason they cannot complete the task, so, ask them. Instead of sending emails in the heat of the moment, I now write my issue down & ask them what’s going on the next day. This gives me time to think & enables an open, honest, face-to-face conversation.
Instead of asking “why haven’t you done this I’ve asked you so many times!!!?!?!?!” I say “I noticed you haven’t done this yet, is there a reason? If so, is there something I can help with?” This approach has led to some of the most important conversations I’ve had at work.
It’s a more positive approach that leads to a positive outcome. Here’s why:
It gives them the benefit of the doubt
It gives you the opportunity to understand them
It gives them the opportunity to learn from you and therefore respect, rather than fear, you
You learn so much about the way people think & how you can help people
In the future, instead of feeling frustrated, you feel interested
You get to learn too
The next step: When a few things start to build up, or you feel some tension you can’t place, it may be time for a quarterly progress review:
This is mostly about listening: Ask them how they are finding their job, if there’s anything they would change, where they would like to get to
Set a few simple, measurable goals for your employees
More importantly, ask them to set simple, measurable goals for themselves
Review & reset these every 3 months
Something that may seem logical or habitual to you, may not be to an employee or colleague. Often the answer is so simple for you to explain, and a pivotal learning curve for their personal and professional development. It has made my day to day work life much more enjoyable and strengthened word relationships. You get to work with people, not against them.
Image by @tyler_spangler