How to Stop Telling People What to Do
Traditional managers expect compliance. Coaching-managers expect engagement, creativity, responsibility, and ownership.
People who’ve been controlled often prefer compliance over participation.
“Just tell me what to do,” is a cop out.
Some prefer being controlled to the responsibility of controlling themselves.
It’s easier and safer to be told what to do than to figure it out yourself.
- Place themselves in the center.
- Create helplessness in others. The more compliance you expect the more helplessness you create.
- Enjoy giving permission.
- Stifle creativity.
- Punish mistakes.
- Complain about disengaged employees.
- Feel stress that comes from trying to control things that can’t be controlled.
Bonus: Controlling managers create bottlenecks.
- Place others in the center.
- Give power.
- Expect initiative.
- Tap creativity.
- Use mistakes as growth opportunities.
- Celebrate engagement, effort, and progress.
- Believe others must control themselves. Compliance isn’t engagement.
Bonus: Coaching-managers enhance the results of others.
Transitioning from controlling management to coaching feels awkward to employees.
What if an employee says, “You have more experience. Just tell me what to do.”
How to coach through resistance to being coached:
- What feels good about having me tell you what to do?
- How might developing your own solutions be useful?
- What would you suggest we try? Be sure several options are on the table before they choose a path forward.
- Which option energizes you?
- How can you take the next steps?
- Your development is more important than taking the quick way.
- We’re different people, what works for me may not work for you.
Coaching isn’t a cure all. The choice to tell or advise is still on the table.
The ultimate goal of coaching is developing and leveraging the potential of others. But, sometimes the need for quick results takes precedence over development.
What resistance to coaching-management have you seen?
When employees prefer being told what to do _________?
Training: Coaching for Engagement
Book: “Coaching for Engagement.”
Some prefer being controlled to the responsibility of controlling themselves.
It’s easier and safer to be told what to do than to figure it out yourself. KAPOW! Thanks Dan, for another great insightful article!
Thanks Rick. A good word goes miles!
Some individuals like to be ‘scoff law experts”, you can tel them what to do and they still do what they want until caught! Why? Just because they can or think they can. Some never change because they don’t care! Sad to say.
Some like the tell me what to do side because it falls back on “you” because “you” said so.
The world is full of all kinds we just have to find a way to coral them and get them going in the direction needed to complete the project. The joys of Leading come at a price, sanity and serenity can and do coexist!
Thanks Tim. I’ll add that organizational culture play a big role in the courage of employees to take responsibility. How we respond to mistakes or failure is import if you expect people to take ownership.
Nice, Dan. Nail on the Head, for sure. Compliance, in my mind, is a truly ugly workplace word. It means demontivated, inflexible and non-innovated. I think compliance and I think of “work slowdown,” since that is how groups control and influence companies — “If you do not give us this, we will focus on complying with all the policies, procedures, rules and regulations and NOTHING will be accomplished.” — That is actually one of the strategies in the US Government booklet on how to engage in nationwide sabotage! (An interesting book, based on how the French resisted the Germans in so many ways.)
Yelling and Telling ain’t generating ownership involvement, that is for sure.
Thanks Dr. Scott. While reading your insights, I thought about the only power weak people feel they have is the power to disrupt. Thanks for tickling the gray matter.
A couple of other items I think belongs on the “Coaching Managers” list:
– Provide boundaries
– Allow for the execution of the ideas that come from the initiative and creativity of those being coached
Thanks Doug. Nice add! There can be the idea that results don’t matter when managers start thinking about coaching. Your first suggestion, in particular, helps with that misperception.
What advice do you have for someone whose manager is controlling and doesn’t realize or make steps to change to a coaching manager?
Thanks Jayne. The idea that we can’t control people applies especially to people who are controlling. Ugh!
You might try anticipating their needs and giving them what they want before they ask. Maybe they will back off.
If you have a strong relationship, you might try bringing it up. But, if you do, be sure to have a clear picture of what you want. Don’t just be a compainer.
Hopefully she subscribes to Leadership Freak and sees herself in the controlling list. I think this article is great. I will need to figure out how to manage this “up”… or find a new job.
Your comment brought a smile to my face and made me think of lots of other things we could do to “help” controlling bosses. (None of them should be shared) Cheers
The reason I feel it’s important for managers to recognize and correct controlling behaviors is that I’m being dinged for “lack of confidence” in my annual review. It’s hard to display confidence when your manager tells you what to do. Not all staff are lazy and looking to be told what to do.
Jayne, when a leader says something like “you lack confidence” in a performance appraisal you can do a couple of things. One, you can say “I’d like to understand this better. What are you seeing that causes you to suggest I lack confidence.” This is a non-defensive way of allowing you to get deeper into what they’ve just said. And by asking it, you get a natural lead into the second thing you can do which is to say something like “it’s interesting you note I lack confidence because I’ve been thinking about how to broach this topic with you. There are times when it seems I’m provided with very specific direction on how to approach an issue. If I’m going to show you I am confident and can act confidently, would you be open to hearing my ideas on how to approach certain issues”?
Good luck in your journey.
What a timely article for me and our organization as we are working hard at moving away from a “command & control” environment to a culture of “knowledge workers”! Thank you, Dan!
Thanks Jill. Best for the journey!
I think I do a better job of this in the work place than I do at home. I could start coaching my family! 🙂 Coaching requires that one let go of direct control and become a facilitator. And as you noted in an earlier post, the control freak often acts like (or believes) that their control is helping rather than hurting the situation and/or the people involved. Thanks for being my coach today.
Thanks Vicki. I know you are practicing your coaching skills. You don’t feel the tension between the inner coach and the inner control freak unless the freak feels threatened. 🙂
I learned long long ago to never try this “business stuff” at home! (grin) Your family sees right through it and those confrontations can be awfully funny! (Well, I see that YOU went to a training program today…” kinds of things.)
While running a business is like running a mental institution (I just watched Jack take over the shop in “One flew over the Cookoo’s Nest” again), none of that stuff can remotely compare to the interactions in a family. Funny thing is that most marriage counselors are divorced or sometimes never married. Be careful transitioning those professional certifications into the real world! (grin)
(I have a doctorate in psychology that I never use…)
People prefer being told what to do when they have been coached to show initiative, effort and progress and then get nailed when the least thing goes wrong.
One more thought:
Compliance will generate a predictable reaction in some people with a negative history framed around the situation: SABOTAGE
Here are two articles I wrote around that issue, with links and data and all that stuff:
That’s just me, helping to make workplaces more fun! (grin)
I often wonder if when people are asking for direction if they really aren’t asking for something else. For example, do they need the security of knowing they can make a mistake? Do they need to know you will back them if they fall down? Are they really saying “please coach me”. I used to ask for direction in my early years because I didn’t have the strength yet to say “I’m not sure I can do this and need to learn”. It was easier to try and get direction and then learn through what I was being told rather than directly asking for help.
Some questions to ask someone who is asking you for direction might be “why do you need me to provide direction here” or “before I weigh in, I’m still curious as to what your thoughts are. I’d love to know more about your views on this” or “if I give direction on this how will this help you with your own development goals”?
Thanks Alf. Your insights and compassion inspire me!
I see a lot of fear and anxiety on the part of the controlling manager in some cases. If you mess up, it’s always going to go back to them and they will have to answer for whatever went wrong. So you’re running around dotting every i and crossing every t on the task list they make for you, because they don’t want to ever be caught short not knowing every single aspect of a project. Heaven forbid they get that call from THEIR boss asking about some small detail of the project, and they don’t know the answer off the top of their heads.
Thank you for another wonderful article Dan. I’ve spent my entire working life with Traditional (Controlling) Managers and have now given up trying to find Coaching Managers. This has now pushed me into starting up my own Work-from-Home business where I will be able to use my creativity and initiative to the benefit of my clients.
Self-responsibility frees a person. Taking the initiative…looking around for things that need doing…spotting them…actually filling needs…and, taking ownership for how things turned out. Now, that’s what makes life VERY worthwhile!
It’s nice to see workplaces becoming more egalitarian than in the past 🙂 family and (especially older) teachers taught me to deal with controlling managers -.-
This is a fantastic instance of the chicken or the egg scenario method of management. I find that best intentions are easily clouded by shear ignorance. Many thanks for sharing!