When People Say YES But Do NO

Motivation isn't what people say when they are talking with you, it's what they do after they leave your presence.  Here are six-ways to get people to do what you want when they are off by themselves.  

By Brent Filson - 05/09

As a learning leader, you constantly need to motivate people to take action — not the action they want to take but the action you want them to take.

The trouble is, the vast majority of these people, which usually include leaders of all ranks and functions throughout your organization, don’t report to you.  You can’t order them to take action.  You must persuade them.  

And here’s the rub:  When you identify what you want done, they often say “yes,” but after they leave the meeting, they actually do “no.”  Things get done half-heartedly or wrongly, or they don’t get done at all.

It’s not that they lied to you.  It’s just that when they got back to their own work site, their challenges took precedence over your needs.   

This underscores an important rule of leadership: motivation isn’t what people say, it’s what they do.

Until you can motivate people to do “yes,“ you can’t live up to your full potential as a leader.

Here are 6 ways to align what you want with what they do.  The steps can be applied sequentially as a total process or individually as the situation merits.

1. Be clear about the results you intend to achieve.  When they don’t do what you want, it’s often because they don’t know what you want to do.   Bring clarity to the results you need by applying the SAMMER Test.

The SAMMER Test directs that results should be Sizable, more results than would have been achieved without your program; Achievable, no space shots or impossible missions, lest you want to de-motivate people; Meaningful, they must be meaningful to the people who achieve them; Measurable, there is no value in business without measurements; Ethical, you must achieve the results in ethical ways; and Repeatable, the results must be springboards for ever increasing levels of results.

Here is an article on the SAMMER Test.

2. Know Their Hidden Needs.  Or more precisely, try to know their hidden needs.  Most people you talk with have hidden needs, needs they don’t show others, needs that often they themselves may not be conscious of. It’s not easy identifying those needs.  After all, people go through years of psychotherapy to uncover and come to grips with their hidden needs.  Since psychotherapy is not in your professional tool kit — though many learning leaders might dispute this, given the challenges they face with certain kinds of people — hidden needs are still a leadership issue.
Remember, they will not reveal their hidden needs to you unless they trust you; and they won’t trust you until they believe you can help them solve the problems of those needs.

Here is an article on how to identify the people’s needs

3. Know their organizational needs.  You may not know their hidden needs, or it may take some time for you to find out those needs; but you should have a good idea of what their organizational needs are.  Organizational needs are those that grow from their participation in the organization you both belong to.  Job security, promotion, job dissatisfaction, rewards, recognition ... are, of course, a few of such needs. 

Go here to see a process for motivating people using organizational needs.    

4. Help them solve the problems of those needs.  Every need is a problem crying out for a solution.  If you can’t help them solve their big problem, you become a part of the problem.  However, here is the key to the solving process: Help them take initiative and action to solve their problems.  Don’t make them dependent on your solutions.  If they say, “you’re the leader, you solve the problem”, you’re engaged in the wrong dynamic and will not have them be motivated in your absence.

Here is a tool to get people solving their own problems.

5. Develop a Critical Convergence. You and they must do something more than solve problems. In solving problems, you must achieve results needed by the organization.  The solving of problems to get results is called the Critical Convergence. The Critical Convergence happens when their solving their problems achieves results for the organization.

Read more about how to achieve a Critical Convergence here.

By establishing a Critical Convergence, you have the best chance of their being motivated in the way you want them to be motivated whether they are in your presence or not.     

6. Use the Shared Dream leadership tool.  You have your vision of your organization.  The people have their dream of their life.  When that vision and dream unite into a Shared Dream great things happen in terms of their being motivated.  The Shared Dream process can be critical in having people be motivated to be your ardent cause leaders both in your presence and away from it.

Here’s an article on The Shared Dream

Copyright © 2009, The Filson Leadership Group, Inc.

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Brent Filson
Brent Filson