Speaking from Doing the Right Thing and Achieving All Your Goals at the Same Time
Doing the Right Thing is a book about people who work in offices, why we fight, and how we can stop fighting, solve our problems, and get back to work. All materials on this site Copyright © Marianne Powers 2002. All rights reserved.    Home    Back    Next

Doing the Right Thing and Achieving All Your Goals at the Same Time

Full Book Outline:

---People Are What They Are and It's Irrelevant Anyway
---We Don't Know What Other People Are Capable of Achieving
---People Are Not Accountable for Their Thoughts and Feelings
---We Don't Know What Other People are Thinking and Feeling
---People Are Accountable for Their Words and Actions
---Assume Everyone is Doing the Best They Can
---Assume Everyone Has a Good Reason for What They Say and Do

---Listen Very Carefully
---Welcome Information, Criticism is Information
---If You Have a Choice, Don't Choose to be Hurt
---Examine Your Motives
---Targeting Problems is Good, Targeting People is Evil
---If You Want Someone to Do Something for You, You Have to Be Completely on Their Side
---When People Don't Understand, Listen Better

---State Your Position Clearly and Ask for What You Want Specifically
---Tell Them Even If You Know They Won't Understand
---All You Can Do is Tell Them, You Can't Make Anyone Do Anything
---When People Don't Meet Your Expectations, Change Your Expectations
---Give Them 100 Tries to Get It Right
---If They Can't Get It Right in 100 Tries, There Must Be Something Wrong with the Procedure
---Teach Everyone to Do Everything

All You Can Do is Tell Them, You Can't Make Anyone Do Anything
I used to think that managers could make the people who worked for them do things. It is the main management task, I thought. I was disgusted with managers who couldn’t make their staff get to work on time, enter data in the computer correctly, do the filing, or stop fighting amongst themselves. That manager is lazy, incompetent, or is trying to be “friends” with everybody instead of doing their job, I thought.

When I became a manager myself, I knew that it was my job to make people do things. I would look the situation over, decide what needed to be done, and tell people what to do. They didn’t need a reason. I was the boss. They had to do what I said.

Over the years, though, I found out how people handle these kinds of delusions. They disagree with the way you have told them to do their job. So, they just don’t do it. (I never did learn to expect that.) You insist. So, they do it exactly like you said to do it. (This is the worst thing anybody can ever do to you.) They don’t adapt the instructions to the situation. They don’t do those steps that “everybody knows” you have to do but that you neglected to write down. They don’t bother to tell you the obvious, minor flaw in your plan that is going to make it not work. They don’t know what you mean, “sabotage” what?

Even then, I was convinced that my boss should just give me the power to fire people at will. That would get compliance. More fear was what was needed. But my boss didn’t understand. His response was, “Uh, I don’t think that would be a good idea.” And some of the people who worked for me did seem to be intimidated already. One woman always brought a backup with her when she came to talk to me. But she still didn’t do what I told her to do. In fact, I got the impression that her role was the heroine – fighting a cruel tyrant (that would be me) to get justice for the downtrodden (that would be her). I was just trying to get the job done. But I couldn’t even make timid people do what I wanted!

Eventually, I gave up on being a manager and became a computer support person. There were things I would have liked to make my customers do. Like not turn off the computer when the program is still running. Like come to training so they could learn how to use the software correctly. Like buy a new server before the antique they had been using for the last seven years finally crashed for good. But, everybody in computer support knows you can’t make the customer do those things. We would tell each other stories about the occasional imprudence of our customers. And we always gave each other the same response -- a sympathetic nod, a shrug, and “All you can do is tell ‘em.”

So, we would make recommendations, tell them what we thought the benefits would be of following our recommendations, tell them what the consequences could be of not following our recommendations and how likely we thought they were, and leave it up to them. Actually, we treated them like intelligent people who could make their own judgments based on the facts. We did not pressure them. Only the truth of the situation pressured them. We did not tell them what to do. We just told them what they needed to know so they could succeed.

We wanted our customers to succeed. The success of our business depended on their success. We provided products and services they used on an ongoing basis. The nature of our business involved long-term relationships with them. If we had gotten them to buy something they couldn’t afford or that didn’t do the job, it would have had a negative impact on their business. They would have stopped working with us. What we tried to do, instead, was provide things that made their work easier, faster, or better in some way and contributed to their success. They were a good reference and told everyone they knew how great we were. They bought more computer equipment and software when they were ready.

This worked so well that I have used it ever since when I want something from someone. I don’t try to make them do it. That does not work. Even with a different personality or more power, I do not think I can make anyone do anything. Even if I could, I know that it would not be the best way to accomplish my goals. When you want someone to do something, tell them what you want and why. This even works when what you want is required.

Next Section: When People Don't Meet Your Expectations, Change Your Expectations

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