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5 reasons why people don’t do as you ask— and the strategies to fix it

Whether it’s a member of staff that is always late with a report, a toddler that is over attached to the word No or your partner who never listens to you. It can be frustrating, demoralising and make you question your skills as a leader, parent or human when you’re saying words, and no one is doing as you’ve asked. So, if you’re faced with someone that just won’t listen and do as you ask, here’s 6 reasons why and what you can do about it.

1. Perspective.

A big reason people don’t do as you ask them to, is because your perception of importance does not match up to theirs. For instance, to you it’s essential that someone from your company is out there bringing in new business, your staff on the other hand see it as a waste of time impacting on their to do list. Helping people to adjust their perception so they see the value in the actions you are asking to be completed will make them compliant with little effort from you.

Helping them to see the personal benefits to them shifts their attitude to the task and lowers their resistance to it too. With the networking example they can see that new business means more profit and more profit means more money for your team. “Hang on, I’m getting the money? Well, that’s different!”

It’s far easier to get people to see the benefits for themselves than to attempt to convince them your way is right; do you want to know why?

2. Ego.

It can feel disrespectful when someone doesn’t do as we ask them to can’t it? Do they not love me? Do they not value their job? Do they not care? Taking it personally brings your emotions and feelings into it and that will make it harder for you to bring a sense of calm clarity to the situation.

Take your ego out of the equation and consider theirs. What is that person feeling? What might they be thinking? (See below for more on this). Ego can get in the way and force us to respond in a less than brilliant way (see the next strategy for more on this). Consider if the relationship could be damage as a result of your desire to make this person do this task? Is your ego and how you feel more important than the end result?

If it’s imperative to use reframing to help them see what you see. It means they don’t have to back down on what they value and can honour you too. Enable them to step back and understand the situation for themselves. For example, “If you don’t get out there and network and “Schmooze” (as one member of staff put it) then we won’t have any clients and you won’t have any billable hours”. If chatting to people is now worth a lot of money, (even a bonus) suddenly it looks more appealing, doesn’t it?

3. They can’t help it!

Have you seen Finding Nemo when they shout, “Don’t touch the butt” and poor Nemo ends up in a lot of trouble because he touched the butt. (Actually, it’s a boat, but those fish didn’t hear the correct pronunciation!) A whole films worth of grief, scary moments and near-death experiences.

When people don’t do as you wish, they are having a psychological response that says, “I’m in charge here not you”. We want to at a very fundamental level be in charge of ourselves. It keeps us safe, otherwise someone could tell you to jump in the road and you would — we need to be able to decide for ourselves what’s important and what needs to happen. If you want to see this one in action, check out the click bait titles on social media — You will never believe this……well I’ll be the judge of that……ha got you!

And as William Wallace in The Highlander shouted before battle “You will never take our freedom!” So don’t threaten their autonomy and they are far more likely to respond appropriately. It’s a fast way to gain respect, without asking for it.

Primarily us humans like to get our own way, but we also like to feel safe. Put those two things together and you have “You aren’t the boss of me!” (Even if you are!) As I tell clients, Newton had it right “For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction”.

As an example, my client manages a very large team and was incredibly frustrated by a couple of members of staff that always had excuses why things weren’t done. This approach not only got them on side it worked on their 17-year-old son who found a new interest in loading the dishwasher!

Look to show you appreciate their view, feelings, emotions, etc so that they feel listened to. Utilising NLP skills can work here (called mirroring) just be cautious about getting this wrong because it can look weird and trite

Ensure you ask coaching style questions for this one, so ditch the “Why didn’t you do this!” for “What could be the reasons that this has not happened?” It’s non judgemental and it will help you with the next strategy.

4. Assumptions.

Just because you’re brilliant at time management do not assume those around you are too. A study at Carnegie Mellon University’s human computer interaction lab had 100+ students sit a test. Half were asked to turn their phones off and the other half had their phones on and received intermittent messages. Those students who had their phones on performed on average 20% worse!

Okay things like this seem obvious but what are their time management skills like?
It’s amazing how many people have things on their to do list that aren’t’ that important that they will do over sacrificing things that actually need doing — I will explain why in the next top tip.

So don’t assume they know what you want them to do and why. Have you explained it?

Have you said it clearly? You may think you said one thing and they heard another — “It would be good to have that report by Friday” is to you I want that report by Friday they heard “Get it done when you can, Friday is good but not essential.”

A big reason people don’t manage their staff (children, etc) effectively is because of communication and boundary issues. I often hear “Well it’s obvious, isn’t it?” Is it?

5. Fear.

Three fears play out here. The most important one is the fear of what people will think of you. Next comes “Well what if I get this wrong? And lastly comes “Actually I don’t think I know how to do this!” (If you’ve read my book Fight the fear, you will know these 3 fears in detail.)

When someone doesn’t do as they’ve asked to repeatedly there has to be a reason. Once you’ve ditched the assumptions and see it from their point of view, using clear communication, make the environment safe for them to say anything.

In this situation in team coaching, I often hear some eye-opening things. The best one was the team of 25 who were working with me for a week on business growth, team building and performance, they wanted to rewrite their vision and create goals that everyone had helped create. Awesome right? Except halfway through the second day one team member finally plucked up the courage to say, “Look I know we do something to do with logistics, but I don’t’ really know what.” That person had been with the company for 12 years! But they lacked confidence or the communication skills to speak up so had been struggling for years. This is often the case, so don’t assume people know how to do what you’ve asked. Ask them, guide them, empower them, train them, coach them.

R and R

And lastly if you get stuck or aren’t sure of the best approach, try something and ensure you have a date to come back and R and R — reflect and review.

Is it working?

What needs to change?

What do I/They need to do differently?

How can I assist? Etc, etc.

The great news is that if it’s in a workplace setting and you’ve coached them to do as you expect of them and then they don’t you’ve a documented journey of what you have done to help them.

It’s amazing how many business owners do not appreciate that by working with a coach, they can then take that knowledge to HR or an employment lawyer and ensure they get the result they actually want. Alas this is not something you can do with your children or partner!

If you loved this article and benefited, please do share it, ensure you follow me on medium and social media. All links are on my site and get in touch anytime so I can write something specifically for you. This article was written for two new clients who I start work with in 2 weeks. This is to get them up and running, I hope it helps you too.

  • February 5, 2022