Managers, supervisors — leaders of all kinds worry over the same question: Why do my employees do what they do? Day after frustrating day, we grapple with different versions of the “why” question:
- Why don’t they listen?
- Why do they insist on doing it the hard way?
- Why won’t they apply themselves?
- Why don’t they ask questions?
- Why do they resist help from others?
Wondering why employees do what they do can drive even the best leaders to scratch their heads in confusion. But here’s a bit of good news: there is a definitive answer to that mind-numbing “why” question. The answer represents a universal truth that I explain in detail in Chapter 7 of Leaders Ought to Know: 11 Ground Rules for Common Sense Leadership. I call it the “cornerstone concept.”
The cornerstone concept says: All human behavior is directed toward the satisfaction of needs.
If the cornerstone concept is a bit underwhelming to you, stop and reconsider: this concept applies to virtually every situation you and I as leaders will experience with our followers. When a leader understands that an employee’s behavior is an effort to satisfy a need, the leader can move on from the “why” question to the “what” question. “What” is the employee’s need and “what” can I do to help?
Addressing the unmet needs of followers is the shortest path to gaining their respect, support and ultimately, their productive effort. It’s a simple equation really.
Identify the needs of your followers.
- Ask about their dreams, goals and long-term aspirations.
- Recognize their fears, anxieties and current limitations.
- Remember needs may range from stability and consistent employment to a need for challenge and achievement.
Discuss with followers how their needs align with the organization’s goals.
- Detail the follower’s primary role within the organization.
- Brainstorm specific ways the follower can satisfy their needs through achievement of the organization’s goals.
Offer followers your support.
- Provide for and encourage skills-based training and development options.
- Identify and suggest practical opportunities for followers to practice their new skills.
- Schedule time to evaluate the employee’s personal and organizational progress.
Now, I want to hear from you:
Phillip Van Hooser
Leadership Expert, Keynote Speaker
Author of Leaders Ought to Know: 11 Ground Rules for Common Sense Leadership