Learn from my experience: People want you to tell them what to do, how to do it, and when to do it. The reason they do it and the rationale behind how they do it run far secondary in importance to clearly detailed and outlined instructions.
Yes, this statement goes against a lot of today’s leadership folderol, which tells people at the helm to set targets and then let their employees determine how to hit them. People want to feel in control of their work. They want to develop the how and the why and the when.
Nice notions, all of these.
As an entrepreneur, I like to set my own path and sincerely dislike following rules that seem arbitrary. The dominant wisdom about how people prefer working actually describes how I like to work.
However, as I’ve learned with sales, you can’t assume everyone does things the way you do them. Nor can you assume that people think just like you do, like the same things you like, or want you to treat them just as you’d like them to treat you.
So much for the Golden Rule.
People want to feel that leadership has everything figured out—no nebulousness, please—and that it has plotted their clear path to success. (They will still complain. Annoyingly, people get satisfaction from complaining.) Employees want autonomy in improving the path, not in setting it.
Feeling that leadership doesn’t know what it wants done or how it wants it done makes people nervous. When, in the spirit of following today’s set-their-own-path wisdom, I asked my team how they thought we should reach a goal, they figured my asking the question meant I didn’t know how to get there—rather than that I wanted them to take part in setting the plan. They didn’t know how to proceed. Uncertainty fed the natural human tendency to inertia, and they just stopped.
The dominant “wisdom” misleads management. In wanting to give a team flexibility and autonomy—which the gurus tell us they want—we throw out all structure and leave people floundering. Instead, we need to allow for adjustments and accommodation and we need to stay open to great ideas from our team—but we need to give them parameters within which to work.
For people to think “outside the box,” we need to give them a box.