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How to Make People Want to Do What You Tell Them to Do


Does your job feel like it should include “herding cats” in the description most of the time? How do you get people you manage to actually want to do what you tell them? Unless you’re a pre-school teacher, you’re likely dealing with a gaggle of adults, but sometimes it’s next to impossible to get them to operate like a team, all working for the same common goal. So here are some ideas that are so simple, they just might work (and no, they don’t involve pointy sticks).


(Photo Credit: nist6dh/Flickr)

Show them respect.

Do You Know What You're Worth?

It can be challenging to always be as respectful as you should to a group that isn’t paying attention or at the very least, whose motivation is fleeting. But what you should do is treat them as adults and they should rise to the occasion. Make them see that they’re a part of the same team and they have “ownership” over their actions and outcomes. If you show them respect by trusting them to make intelligent decisions, they’ll likely come back with some inspired, unique thinking.


We’re not saying put bugs in the cubes (that’s just creepy), but instead make sure that you’re a good sounding board for your employees’ ideas and feelings. Do they have ideas that run counter to the initial plan of attack? Maybe they have some legitimate insights to be shared. Also, if they come to you with concerns, make sure that you’re giving them attention to avoid problems they might have spotted at the outset. If they think you won’t act on their input, they won’t come to you with anything in the future — they’ll just let the whole thing crash and burn.

Try to understand where they’re coming from.

The trenches can be dirty, but that’s where the fighters are. As a manager, if you’ve been up and away from the fight for a while, you may need to make a special effort to relate to what your staff is going through. Do you know exactly how the sausage gets made? When you’re asking someone for “one quick change” and they have reservations about how much time it will really take, maybe you should listen to what they’re saying. Timelines are easy to disrupt and hard to put back together. If you are getting honest input from your staff on blockers to the schedule, you should definitely pay attention so you can keep everything moving smoothly.

Don’t worry about being liked, but think about your reports’ best interests.

This one is hard, especially for those of us who hate to not be liked. But you’re the boss, and you sometimes have to make the hard decisions. And really, if you’re worrying so much about people not liking you, then you’re spending too much time away from being authentic with them. Sometimes you have to disagree with someone if you feel they’re not in the right. Now, there’s ways to not be a jerk while doing this, but don’t feel like you have to be a smiling mouse in the corner at every meeting. You’ll earn your team’s respect by being judicious and fair, not by always saying what they want to hear.

Tell Us What You Think

Do you have a team that’s hard to manage? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

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Meg CollinsPhindileRick AtkinsonJozef Recent comment authors
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Ok. It’s nice.
But if you have subcontractors, because you don’t need to have a contract with them.
Today is working brilliantly and two days continuously always forgetting to do his job properly.
It is easy for you to writing about EMPLOYEES.
My be you was studied about it.
But subcontractors policy always different, because contractors may need change methods statement of work and job will changes in the minutes. This is construction industry 🙂




From an employee’s point of view I also think that managers should stop sidelining their employees. If a manager cant be trusted to defend his/her employees when they being wrongfully accused or to be neutral when dealing with office issues/conflict then the manager will lose their trust. I also believe in the saying “if you are a leader, be the example of how you want your employees to conduct themselves”.

Rick Atkinson
Rick Atkinson

Sometimes, even though you take the measures shown, you still may encounter resistance or downright rebellion. This may occur when employees feel what management is asking them to do will be used in the future to judge their performance. Thus they fear potential future use of what you are asking them to do. Consistent reinforcement that what you are asking them to do will not be used against them may help reduce their anxiety levels and get the work done.… Read more »

Meg Collins
Meg Collins

You forgot a very essential piece to this article. If you explain the “why” behind what you want or need from others, they will usually be in tune to that and comply proactively with what you want. Or, they may offer additional solutions themselves.

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