Listening 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

If You Want Someone to Do Something For You, You Have to Be Completely on Their Side
We usually do things because we want to do them. Usually, what we do helps us achieve a goal Ė have fun, be happy, make a living, be part of something bigger than ourselves.

It seems like we canít always do exactly what we want to do when we want to do it. Because we coexist with other people, we have had to come to agreements on some things that we do and how and when we do them. But we make those agreements because we want to. We make laws to document our agreements with other citizens and the consequences of not sticking to our agreements. Most of us obey those laws. We obey them because we want to. We act in accordance with the law because we want to get along with other people and live without conflicts with our neighbors, not just because the police make us. That would take a police man or woman for every citizen who had to be forced to obey the law for as long as they were being forced to do it. Making us do something we donít want to do is very difficult and takes a lot of time and effort. If the force that makes us do it lets up for a second, we return to doing what we want to do.

We also make contracts with the people who employ us so that we can accomplish our mutual goals. We go to work and work on the tasks that are assigned to us. Our employers or managers donít make us work. We work because we want to work, for a lot of different reasons. We work for money. But because almost every job pays money, there is almost always some other reason why we picked that job. We work in order to accomplish our employerís goals, which we share. We work for the satisfaction of doing something that makes a difference. We work to express ourselves. We work for recognition or fame or power or because we need to be useful or because we want to get out of the house and see other people. Even people who ďdonít have to workĒ for money, work for other reasons.

People who are very good usually love what they do, or maybe they love what they do because they are very good at it. Either way, the best workers are the ones who most want to do the work. When what a manager wants from a person is the exact thing that person wants to do, management is effortless. When what a manager wants from a person is detested by that person, unless it makes some really significant contribution to something else they want to do, management is impossible.

Sometimes we are fooled by the fact that people do what is asked of them. There was a time when I was. I thought people did what I asked of them because they had to. I was wrong. They did what I asked of them because they wanted to.

If a person has picked a job to do, they probably have at least a general idea of what tasks will be involved in doing it and want to do those things. If they didnít know and donít want to do the job when they find out what it is, they wonít be any good at it. It is not enough to need a job, you have to want it. You canít just ďdo anythingĒ, at least not well.

There are almost always things that you donít like about a job. Very few jobs consist of exactly and only what you want to do. But most jobs are part of a larger mission and you can do some things for no other reason than that they help to accomplish that mission. I donít think you can do a job well that you donít like any part of, though, not even for the best cause.

There were times in the past when I needed someone to do something that wasnít part of their job description (except for that item that says ďother tasks as assignedĒ, of course). Unless it was something they wanted to do, I would often hear, ďitís not my jobĒ or its equivalent. I have never worked in a union shop or anywhere that people were supposed to be able to refuse to do things that were not in their job description. But I have never worked anywhere that people didnít try to use their job description as a reason to refuse to do something they didnít want to do.

I donít know where I got it, but I have always believed that my job was ďwhatever needed to be doneĒ. Iím afraid it might have something to do with being a busybody, but I am sure that it also has to do with knowing that my part is just that, part of a larger goal that is more important than my part, and that my part has no value if the larger goal is not achieved. But I have also refused to do things, like make coffee (hey, I donít drink it). I did make coffee at one job, though, because nobody else seemed to be able to function until they had a cup and I was the first one there. They were very grateful and went right to work. At that job, I wanted to make the coffee.

When I needed someone to do something and they didnít want to do it, I was always quick to point out that it was their job, that they had to do it, and I expected that to be an end to it. But it never was. I would have to threaten their jobs or they wouldnít do it at all. I would have to watch them the whole time or they would do it badly. I had to remind them when they had to do it again, even if it was every day, or they would ďforgetĒ. It was always more trouble than it was worth.

Sometimes, I had other people telling me I had to make someone else do something they didnít want to do. But I never could convince myself to go through the agony of it, unless I also believed it needed to be done. I procrastinated. I didnít do it well. Unless I wanted to.

There came a time when I had to get people to do things and I couldnít make them do it because they didnít work for me. Actually, I just had to give up the illusion that I could make anyone do anything. So, what I did was try to get people to want to do things. Sometimes, all I had to do was remember what made me want to do things Ė it was fun, it made my job easier, it was more efficient, it was good for the company. Sometimes, especially if they were anxious about doing something new, I might call upon some enlightened self-interest.

But the most important thing in getting people to want to do something was to be on their side.

If I wasnít on their side, they would not listen to me or do what I thought they should do. They knew it was possible that I was trying to get them to do something that wasnít in their best interest. I would never tell anyone, not even an enemy, to do something that I thought would set them up to be hurt. But Iím the only one that knows that for sure. And if I donít care about someone, maybe I donít give quite enough thought to what might hurt them, so they are right not to listen to me if I donít care about them, even though I am an honorable person.

I donít do what my enemies tell me to do either, no matter how much power they have. I have never found one that could ďmake meĒ do anything. The same is true even for a boss that I normally want to do things for, if I know that my enemy is passing a request through him. It seems a lot of people are like me in this regard.

So I learned that if I want someone to do something, I have to first get completely on their side. It isnít enough that I am their boss or their boss has agreed to it. I have to think about them, what they are doing, what they say they want. I have to try to foresee where the actions I ask of them will lead and how it will affect them. I have to tell them what I see. I have to care about them and look out for them.

These are the things that I do for myself when I contemplate a course of action. I have always done them for people I know and like before I ask them to do something. What I learned was that I also have to do these things even if I donít know the person very well. And I have to do them even if I donít like the person. I have to be completely on their side if I want someone to do something, whoever they are. If I am not on their side, I should not be asking anything of them. If I am on their side, they can safely listen to me and decide if they want to do it. And once someone had decided that they wanted to do something, I never had to threaten them (which was good, since I couldnít), watch them, or nag them. All I had to do was teach them and help them.

Next Section: When People Don't Understand, Listen Better

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