One of the most common frustrations I’ve heard from CEOs and managers more generally is “But I told them ….”
Whether it’s to do something or to behave a certain way (e.g. values).
But “telling them” isn’t enough. Here are some reasons your team may not be doing what you “told them”.
- There’s a culture of not getting things done. Or they may see that others get away with not getting things done, and drift towards mediocrity.
- They think (know?) you’ll change your mind / come up with something else next week.
- They think (know?) you’re likely to forget about it by next week.
- They know they can throw some other form of busyness at you (“I had a client meeting” being a firm favourite) and get away with it.
- They may genuinely be too busy / otherwise prioritised to get it done.
- They may not know how to get it done (even if sometimes they should).
- If it’s behavioural, they may see that you let others get away with it, or that you yourself don’t do it.
- It’s much bigger than you think it is when you told them.
- They disagree with you, and hope you’ll come round / forget.
Some of those are down to you, some are down to them, some are both. What to do about it?
First, make sure you actually do want it done. If it’s behaviour, that means holding everyone else (including your “star” performer and yourself) to the same standard. If it’s an action, meaning it’s not heat of the moment or something that will be inconsequential when done. Meaning it won’t undermine something else you’ve got going on. Meaning it’s a higher priority than what you asked them to do a couple of hours ago. Issuing commands or requests is too easy to do. Think twice before you ask.
Second, make sure they can actually do it. Meaning do they have time or resources? Would they need to drop something else to get it done? Do they know enough to do it (or should they be resourceful enough to figure it out)? Do they know what you’re actually asking? Do you?
Third, build a habit of following up so they know you’re not going to just forget it. If they write down an action, you should write down what you asked. If it’s a behaviour, feed back to them (privately) when they’re not modelling it. Call it out when you’re not. Don’t tolerate it in others. Sure – people should just do what they’re supposed to – but if they don’t think you really want it done, they may just not do it.
And do it all consistently enough that you build a culture where asks are intentional, not reactive, and things get done and not just talked about.
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