Why won't they do what they're told?

You’ve explained. You’ve delegated. They nod back. Then - nothing. What the? Why don’t our colleagues follow through on task requirements? 

There are the usual suspects - you didn’t explain things well enough. Deadlines were unclear. They don’t have the skill to do it. They are overwhelmed with competing priorities. 

Or, something else. 

This one matters most.

I realised this by looking at my own lack of follow through.

For two months I’ve had ‘Pray Rain Journaling’ in my habit tracking journal. (Pray Rain journaling is about writing in your journal about something you want as if it’s already happened. Instead of ‘Praying for rain’ which is kind of like wishful thinking, to ‘Pray Rain’ is to experience it now. Kind of like visualising, but by writing it out. I learned this technique from Jeannette Maw, a coach I admire and worked with for a few years a while back.

And for two months I have ticked ‘complete’ on this habit exactly ZERO times. Zero.

What gives?

When I really thought about it, it comes down to this:

It’s a ‘should’ not a ‘want’. 

I know it’s supposed to be useful and productive to get that kind of focus and clarity on a goal.

But I just don’t want to do it. It feels like hard work rather than joyful work. Plus I’m not sure I really believe in it. Writing about something causes it to appear? Hmmm...not totally sold on it. There’s better ways to spend my time. I’d rather be planning and following through.

Here’s the insight for you:

Actions and habits need buy in.

We’ll never consolidate habits if we don’t BELIEVE in them.

It struck me that this is what happens sometimes when we delegate and it falls in a black hole: our team member doesn’t enjoy the task, and possibly they don’t BELIEVE in it either.

Our job as leaders is to craft compelling rationale and evidence for a task’s purpose.

Telling people to do something ‘just because’ doesn’t cut it.

Where are you failing to persuade? Do you need to clarify your reasons? Do you need to provide more evidence for the worthwhileness of the task?


Related Articles

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How to deal with pushback

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P.S. And when you’re ready, here are three ways I can help:

1. Grab a free copy of our People Stuff Toolkit

It’s the roadmap to better teams and culture: e-copy of my latest book, Loyalty, checklists, templates.

2. Get equipped at our next event

Meet other adventurous leaders seeking to be, think, and do more. Leadership training and tribe meetings are listed here.  

3. Join me and other renegade pathfinders in AMPLIFIERS to get your deep work done.

AMPLIFIERS is an implementation community for big thinkers. If you’d like to amplify your message, motivation and results, send me an email with AMPLIFIERS in the subject line and let me know a little about your work and what big impact you're striving for.


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Zoë Routh is one of Australia’s leading experts on people stuff - the stuff that gets in our way of producing results, and the stuff that lights us up. She works with the growers, makers, builders to make people stuff practical and fun.

Zoë is the author of three books: 'Composure - How centered leaders make the biggest impact',  'Moments - Leadership when it matters most' and 'Loyalty - Stop unwanted stuff turnover, boost engagement, and build lifelong advocates." Zoë is also the producer of the Zoë Routh Leadership Podcast.