How to fish for people

“There is only one way under high heaven to get anyone to do anything. Did you ever stop to think of that? And that is by making the other person want to do it.” — Dale Carnegie

For those out there who go fishing regularly or occasionally, you probably put some thought into what you will use to lure the fish onto your line. Many fish seem to think worms are the best of the best. Unfortunately, when fishing for people, all too often managers and supervisors use the same “worms” to hook their people into doing their job. Dale Carnegie suggested that strawberries and cream might be the better way to get the job done.

There is only one radio station that we all listen to on a regular basis. That station is WIIFM — What’s In It For Me! With that understanding, why don’t we, as leaders, start to think of where the other person is coming from, rather than, “What I want you to do is …” What is the “strawberries and cream” for them?

The word “motivation” comes from the Latin word “movere,” meaning “to move.” With the above understanding, it is clearly not about pushing, pulling, or demanding. It is all about trying to figure out how to connect with the other person and determine what is in it for them. Only then will individuals be motivated, engaged, and committed to do their job — not because they have to!

Many years ago, I was interviewing the CEO of a fairly large organization. He had over 2,000 people under him on the org chart. As our conversation transpired, I learned that his company was in the process of going through some very difficult, very hard to accept changes. In addition, he said that a big part of the problem was the way his senior leaders addressed these changes. With that, I asked him a question that I have probably asked hundreds of times in my consulting career. The question was: “If you had a magic wand and could instantly change the positive impact of your senior leaders, what would happen?” Without much hesitation, he said that they would become more like professional salespeople instead of the amateurs that they were. I can say I have never had that response to the question. I will also say that this CEO came from a sales background.

He went on to explain that the professional salesperson really tries to find out the wants and needs of their customer before even thinking of presenting a solution. The amateur pushes, pushes, and pushes. He then gave me a typical example of what his senior leaders were doing: He had walked into the back of a meeting room where one of his people was rolling out a new health care plan that was going to cost significantly more than the current plan. To start the meeting, he said, “Here is what corporate is going to be doing to us now!”

WHOA! It doesn’t take much to see what is wrong with that picture. My dear, departed philosopher mother (an HR executive for much of her life), would have said, “He really does not have a keen sense of the obvious.”

Finally, as many of you know, there have been many studies on employee engagement in today’s workplaces. The single greatest reason that people are fully engaged and committed to doing their job is the quality of the relationship that they have with their manager. If you are that manager, the more time you spend seeing things from your workers’ point of view and talking in their terms (WIIFM), the more effective you will be.

I will end with two more quotes from Dale Carnegie:

“Arouse in the other person an eager want.” (In other words, don’t shove your eager want down their throat.)

And “People support a world they help create.”

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