Employees not following through

It’s so clear what you want your employees to do!  Yet for some reason it’s not happening as you envisioned. Maddening, right?

If you’re like me your mind leans to:

  • Frustration – why don’t they get it?
  • Suspicion – are they intentionally undermining?
  • Retaliation – what’s the punishment if they don’t kick it into gear?

Before you go to those dark places…press the PAUSE button. If you’ve let feelings of frustration take root this might be hard. Trust me, you’ll be a better manager if you PAUSE as soon as you detect a lack of cooperation. Then ask yourself three key questions:

  1. Do they know WHAT to do?

    Yes, you’re clear on the necessary action. You feel like you’ve made it clear but that does not mean “message received” for them.

    As a leader you’re in the know. You’ve been in the meetings, the initiative is top of mind for you, the topic likely fills your inbox. That may not be true for your direct reports.

    The answer to this problem? Communication. Communicating is more than simply telling them what to do. Ask good questions. Confirm understanding. Watch their body language. Are they leaning in, listening fully? Or are they leaning back, arms crossed? Is their attention on their cell phone? Draw them into a conversation.

    If you sent your directive via email, follow up with a call or face to face chat. A good way to conclude your conversation is to ask, “Now, what questions do you have?”.

  2. Do they know HOW to do it?

    Sometimes employees know what to do, but they don’t know how. Or, there’s something askew in the system that doesn’t allow them to perform properly. In that case, they may not know how to get around that glitch.

    The answer to this problem?  Training and coaching.

    Determine what the specific knowledge and skill gaps are, then provide training and coaching to fill the gaps and support the learning.

    Realize that examining knowledge and skill gaps requires vulnerability on the part of your employees. Are you a leader who allows for vulnerability? Do you lead by demonstrating your own vulnerability? Vulnerability is the quickest path to growth.

  3. Do they know WHY they should do it?

    Do they know why it’s important to the enterprise? A person can know what to do and how to do it, but if they don’t see why it matters they’re less likely to follow through with quality.

    The answer to this problem? Share the “Why.” Early and often.

    Weak managers think expediency wins, and that people just need to do as they’re told. But people are not hired hammers! A quality leader thinks of ways to beckon employees’ heads and hearts to join their hands in the work.

    Engage employees early. Give them the opportunity to weigh in, and they’re far more likely to buy in.  Every project, however small, should have a line of sight to the mission. Help them see that. Be truly curious about their perspectives.

    Some of us are motivated by anticipating pleasure (the benefits of Project X will be so great!). More of us are motivated by avoiding pain (look what could happen if Project X doesn’t get done!). Explore both sides with your employees.

In working through these questions, you’ll move the project forward more swiftly and surely, and develop your employees’ capability. THAT’S how to be a good manager! Win, win!

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