Did any of those family battles end up with your mom or dad saying “Do it because I said so!”—after which you skulked away under threat of grounding and did the minimum possible to complete the task so you could go back outside to play?
Why did you resist your parent’s request? Didn’t the battle take longer than the actual task? Did you have better and more fun things to do? Did you just not like being told what to do? Maybe you didn’t know exactly how to do it? Or maybe it was a little of all of those things?
Fast forward to now. You find yourself engaged in the same battles with your own children and hear yourself saying the one thing you promised yourself that you would never say to your kids: “Do it because I said so!” Then you wonder why you did not keep your promise. Expecting some relief from that question, you go to work. At 9:00 a.m. your employee, Gilda, walks into your office and says she’s going to be late updating her accounts in the Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system. You aren’t surprised. She has yet to meet a CRM deadline.
In response, you reiterate the importance of keeping her account details current. She tells you she understands, but she has too many other things to do. You argue a bit—politely, of course—until, after a few rounds of back and forth, you throw up your hands and say, “Do it because I said so!” Gilda skulks out and inputs the data, but you can tell that she did not put much effort into it and the updates are not what you expect. Is this déjà vu? You wonder, was this a grownup version of the conversation you had with your kids earlier that morning—and the ones you experienced when you were a kid? Surely there is a better way.
Recent motivation research shows that a subtle shift in outlook on these less than desirable tasks can make all the difference in not only well-being, but also goal achievement. So how can you help Gilda feel less imposed upon but still complete the CRM task? As we teach leaders in our new program called Optimal Motivation™, the first step is to check out the employee’s basic psychological needs—Autonomy, Relatedness, and Competence—on the task. The more fully that the employee has these three needs met, the more likely she will be to complete the task, resent it less, and possibly even enjoy it while she does.
3 Steps to a Better Way
In your next meeting with Gilda, instead of getting upset, you decide to use three steps to helping her improve her motivational outlook.
- Empathize with her reality. Start by acknowledging that with her sparkly and people-oriented personality, this CRM task probably feels dreary compared to being out with clients. She agrees. You reiterate the importance of getting the data into the system quickly, and you point out that by doing so she will make herself more positively visible in the organization, and that will help get her contributions to the company recognized.
- Ask for permission to proceed. Next, ask if it would be okay to examine her point of view about the process so that you might help her find a way to make it feel more rewarding. As she begins to open up, you talk about her love of being with clients. She talks about her desire to make an important contribution to the company and to help her clients succeed. She begins to really understand how the CRM might support those goals.
- Explore positive possibilities. Inquire about ways she might both update the CRM system regularly and accurately and also feel better about doing it. Explore whether she would like to shift her outlook from feeling imposed upon to being more aligned around the importance of her keeping her CRM details up to date. While it may not happen in the snap of your fingers, you are trying to help her decide to spend the necessary time—probably half an hour each morning—updating the system instead of waiting until the end of the month when it becomes overwhelming. By coaching her rather than driving her, you are both much more likely to feel positive and confident about her solution.
A True and Common Story
Gilda’s story is real. From that point on, her information was always up to date in the CRM. It is still not her favorite task, but she sees the value of it and that makes her outlook more positive. And as her boss, you feel better about saying, “Because I said so” less often.
Who knows? Maybe your success with Gilda—and your new awareness of the better way—will help you with your kids, too.
About the Author
Sarah Caverhill is Vice President–East Region of The Ken Blanchard Companies. Sarah holds a master of business administration degree and a bachelor’s degree in marketing. Sarah is also coauthor of the book, Your Leadership Legacy.