Savvy leaders induce compliance rather than demand it. They guide people to think for themselves and draw their own conclusions.
To lead others in the right direction, articulate a clear goal and set a timetable for attaining it. Let the conversation unfold in three phases:
1. Discuss a deadline. After establishing the goal, say, “Let’s explore when you need to achieve it.” Solicit the employee’s thoughts on the time frame and, if necessary, cite your own preferences.
For example, a supervisor may tell you he thinks training staff on new purchasing software will take one month. You might reply, “Sounds good. But if everyone was up to speed in two weeks, we’d reap more savings sooner and that would increase your team’s year-end bonus.”
2. Define the stakes. Explore why your employee thinks the goal matters. That’s better than giving a lecture. Ask, “Why do you think this is important?”
When employees say, “This is a big project for us and here’s why,” you lead by letting others see the meaning and organizational impact of their effort. This breeds commitment and a shared spirit of success.
3. Postulate “what ifs.” Make sure employees understand the positive consequences of goal attainment—and the negative consequences if they fail. Pose hypothetical queries such as, “What if you miss the deadline?”, “What if you get derailed by unexpectedly high costs?”, “What if worst-case outcomes get in the way?”
By walking people through “what if” scenarios, you help them anticipate unknowns and prepare contingency plans. And you underscore the seriousness of the goal and implicitly signal how much it means to you that the employee plow ahead despite any obstacles that arise.
— Adapted from Selling Results!, Bill Stinnett, McGraw-Hill.