Can’t we just tell employees what to do?

 Can’t we Just Tell Employees What To Do?

Following on from last months blog Who is in control of you and your business? I thought I would confront the old myth, that leaders can just tell people what to do and everything will run well. The reality is that it is not that simple if you also want to retain your employees.

Next month I will talk about the cost of staff turn over and the effect on your business.

As leaders we have three main options at our disposal, and the way you use them will influence how engaged and loyal your employees will be.

  • Orders and Commands may produce action but not willing compliance.
  • Negotiation is a process where two people will reach a common consensus, but as a compromise the result may not be what either party wants.
  • Persuasion is the best way to get full agreement, compliance, decisions, actions, and results.


Every leader needs to master the skill of persuasion, not to be confused with negotiation.

Persuasion is motivating someone to do something they might not do if you didn’t persuade them. It is not a form of manipulation but aims to win both the heart and the mind, It is the skill of motivating behaviors, and generating ideas and decisions for a shared outcome.

Get to know your employees

The root of persuasion is knowing your employees. Great leaders view their team members as equal contributors and they will spend about 80% of their time communicating with their team, facilitating positive relationships and getting to know what motivates them, what is happening, where the roadblocks are and helping to remove obstacles, in both their work and personal life. A great leader is only as good as the team they lead.

Let them tackle an assignment their way

Great Leaders tell their team what needs happen, they explain what the result should look like, then rely on the team to achieve that result. When company culture creates an over restrained or confined work environment, employees are not be able to work as efficiently as possible or apply creative thinking to their activities. By creating a culture that is based on trust and respect, you create a team that is happy with their positions and feel empowered, this in turn leads to engagement and loyalty along with pride and job satisfaction.

Coaching and Mentoring.

Remember, employees are human, mistakes happen, and they are part of the learning curve. The type of leader you are can be judged by how you deal with these incidents. Great leaders understand that employees benefit from encouragement and mentorship.

Feedback in many organisations is a one-way experience providing feedback based on performance. Employees often know how well they have performed and where their actions or inaction had positive or detrimental consequences. Let them lead the conversation with their perspective. It’s important to note the strengths and weaknesses of each employee and mentor them independently. Ask the employee how they think they can improve and how you can support them and have a healthy conversation where you both reach a common solution. Don’t be afraid to let them give feedback about your management style so you can adopt your style to better support them.

Engage with your employees on a regular basis

As a leader, you need to monitor your team’s workload. When individuals feel overworked and under supported, stress can mount. Feelings may seem unimportant from a managerial perspective, but your employees’ feelings may be indicative of severe job dissatisfaction. When you know how your employees feel about situations, you can take steps to alleviate negative feelings before they become an insurmountable and possibly lead to staff turnover and a poor work environment. Foster an environment where staff know they can talk to you and get your support.

When you regularly ask how they are doing, you can determine if you need to assist with prioritization, reallocate projects, or take other important steps. Be aware that some employees will not indicate that they are overwhelmed because they do not want to be negatively judged but you know their personalities, don’t you?.

We hire for a different reason to how we fire

Most people are hired on their proven ability to solve problems, use logic, or do a specific role or grasp and communicate complex ideas. On the other hand, most employees are terminated because of their inability to recognize emotion in themselves or others, and to use that awareness to guide their decisions. Interview questions only test the emotional inteligence by asking a few stock questions about teamwork and what makes a good team member, however they also accept stock answers for these questions and rarely seek confirmation of these skills.


Great leaders set an example for others to follow and inspire others by encouraging development and valuing their ideas. They know their employees, so they are comfortable delegating authority and avoid micromanaging, preferring to coach and mentor others and help them develop. Great leaders use communication skills to influence others for the overall benefit of the organization. They also have a Window Mirror mentality where they look out the window to find who to praise and look in the mirror to see who was at fault.


Free Course - Handling Difficult Conversations at Work

Some times you may find yourself in the situation where you will have a "difficult" conversation with an employee. Feel free to take my short Udemy course to learn more about how to make it a good experience.

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