The Easiest Way to Get People to Do What You Want
No truly evil tactics involved.
Maybe you are a parent dealing with kids who just won’t listen. Or, maybe you are a project manager with a lot of deadlines that you need to meet.
Either way, you need to get someone else to do something. Simply asking doesn’t work. Force makes you seem villainous. Raising your voice isn’t effective.
First, let’s change the narrative.
Instead of saying “getting someone to do what I want”, we will assume we are hoping to “enable someone to do the right thing for the greater good”. Whether it’s your 8-year-old to pick up their toys or your software developer to finish that bit of code for this sprint.
I learned from a mentor that there is only one thing you need to enable people to do what you need:
Always make sure they believe they decided to do it on their own.
People don’t like being told what to do. They don’t like thinking that someone is influencing them, even though we are influenced everyday. People want to believe they have free will and the ability to make their own decisions.
Taco Bell wants you to buy tacos. They don’t say “hey you, go out and buy a taco now.” Instead, they show you delicious photos and videos of tacos, and you say “Wow, I want one of those”. You don’t realize Taco Bell convinced you to do it.
At my first job, we had someone on our team do a dry run presentation before they were to do it for a customer. This individual changed the way we typically discuss our team metrics and our PM did not like it at all.
My PM asked me (as the junior) to go get the presenter to change his presentation. I was the youngest on the team at the time and I turned to my manager and said, “There is no way he’s going to listen to me.”
My manager in turn replied, “Don’t tell him it was bad. Convince him to change it on his own. You can use your age to your advantage.”
I walked away having no idea what he meant, but after mulling it over a bit, I figured I’d give it a go.
I approached the presenter and I said,
“Hey, nice presentation today, I’ve seen a few folks present our metrics in a different way, what made you decide to use the method you did? I’m still relatively new here and still learning all the different ins and outs such as what’s appropriate when.”
To which he responded, “Yeah, it’s a bit of alchemy, but it came to me when I was speaking with our development team….but the way the other folks presented it is more accurate… now that I’m thinking about it… it would probably make more sense if I followed our more traditional format.”
It was like taking candy from a baby.
It was almost too easy.
Did I? A recent college graduate? Just convince someone 30 years senior to me to change their presentation.
Of course, I didn’t directly ask, but he made the change.
I was happy, my PM was happy, my team was happy.
And the best part was I didn’t have to tell anyone what to do. I asked the right questions and had them believe the change he was making was his own decision.
If I approached this person saying the presentation wasn’t good and that he should do something else instead, he would have laughed at me and completely disregarded what I said. I would have never had his respect moving forward either.
By asking the right questions, you don’t have to come off as bossy. You can empower people to make the change for the greater good and come out completely unscathed.