How do you get people to do what you ask them to do?
I had a great conversation today with a student doing our IOSH Managing Safety course, and I think we can all identify with this situation. He has been badgering someone to do something for quite a while and they still haven’t done it. So how do you get people to do what you ask them to do? Well, if I had the answer to that, I’d be a millionaire. But I do have some tricks that I can share with you.
This particular person is a production manager and one of his team leaders handed their notice in in May, and the HR Department still haven’t made an advert for it. They haven’t advertised the job internally or externally. And he has been badgering them for quite some time to the point where, unfortunately, he had a little bit of a meltdown and lost his temper and perhaps behaved in a way which wasn’t ideal. So how do you get people to do what you ask them to do?
Ask them to commit
I usually do this by asking questions. Questions are usually enough. So one of the questions that I like to ask is: “can I count on you to do this?”
I use this in training all the time. I give people 30 minutes at lunch time, and I say to them: “can I count on all of you to come back in 30 minutes?” And then I look around the room and I get a nod.
I get a nod for each and every individual or a “yes”. And if they don’t nod or if they don’t say “yes”, I’ll ask again: “can I count on you to come back in 30 minutes?” And usually they’ll say”: “yes, yes, sure”. So make a request and follow up with: “can I count on you to do this?”
And then it becomes a promise.
What if they give you a vague answer?
If people give you a bit of a vague answer, like: “I’ll get back to you”, (and I think that’s actually what happened in this situation), follow up with a question like: “when will you get back to me?” Because that gives them a deadline to adhere to.
If they give you a specific day, then that’s a promise, isn’t it? And so when that day arrives you could go to them and say: “you promised that you would get back to me on this by today, and I haven’t heard back from you.”
Be more specific
You could use other questions like: “when are you going to do it?”, “who is going to do it?” or “how are you going to do it?”.
All these kinds of questions which force them to make a plan.
Another question could be: “do you agree that it’s important to do this?” This is one you could use when escalating.
So if you’re being fobbed off for by HR, you could use a question like: “do you agree that it’s important that we replace key members of staff as quickly as possible?” Usually, the answer to that would be: “yes”.
Safety managers can use this as well: “do you agree that it’s important that we comply with health and safety law?” – “Yes”.
“Do you agree that it’s important that we work safely?” – :Yes”.
“Do you agree that it’s important that we complete our actions on time?” – “Yes”.
How do you get people to do what you ask them to do if they NO?
Well there are is a question that you could use to follow up an answer like that, like: “so what is stopping you from doing it?”, “what is stopping you from placing the job advert?”, “what is stopping you from doing the risk assessment?”, what is stopping you from completing the actions on time?”
Now, this focus is on the negative, but that’s okay, because what you want to do is elicit the obstacles that they face. Maybe there are problems. There are challenges that they face, which maybe you can help with.
Hopefully these simple tips will help you get people to do what you ask them to do when you ask them to do it.