Why People Don’t Do What You Want Them to Do – Part 3. Goals and/or Communication

In Part 1 and 2 of this blog series, we focused on two of the 4 causes why people don’t do what you want them to do at work.

In this blog, we focus on a third cause – Goals and/or Communications.

That’s because there are only 4 potential causes of why someone doesn’t do what you want them to do.

They are:

  1.   A skills and/or knowledge issue
  2.   A goals and/or communication issue
  3.   An organizational issue
  4.   A motivation issue

These causes mean that one or more of the following are in play:

  1.   The person doesn’t have the skills and/or knowledge to do it
  2.   The task/goal/result/objective has not been clearly defined or effectively communicated
  3.   There is some organizational barrier that is stopping them from doing it the way you want
  4.   They are not motivated to do it

In Parts 1 and 2, we explained the role of Skills and/or Knowledge as well as Motivation.

So, if you have confirmed that the person is Motivated and has the Skills and/or Knowledge to do what you want – and they are still not getting the task done the way you want – then the cause may be a Goals and/or Communications issue.

This means that the Goal/ Result/ Objective (they are synonyms) might not have been broken down accurately and specifically enough into component subtasks for the person doing the task.

If the Goal has been broken down into subtasks – accurately and sufficiently – then there might be an additional cause why it’s not being done the way you want. Communication.

In other words, it hasn’t been Communicated effectively enough that the person doing the task fully understands what’s expected of them down to the smallest relevant detail.

Here’s an example of how this can play out…

As a manager, you ask someone to do something:

“Get the Department’s Activity Summary Report ready for next week’s Executive meeting. It’s the same as you always do it. The only thing different this time is that it has to include any items from the last Executive meeting that were delegated to be completed but haven’t been done yet.”

So the person assigned to the task – who has generated the report in the past but never had to include this “new” information – does their best to do what they believe is expected of them.

They… 1. Contact each person who’s been at the last Executive Meeting to see if they’ve done what they are supposed to do and, 2. Record the items that haven’t been completed, and 3. Submit the Activity Summary Report.

However, when you, as the manager, get the report, you aren’t satisfied that it is has been done correctly. It’s not what you expected.

You expected more than just a list of what wasn’t done.

You expected 3 additional things which seemed obvious to you

  1.   The “cause” of why each incomplete task wasn’t done
  2.   A revised strategy to make sure it will be done
  3.   A new completion date/deadline.

And, you are confused about how someone who regularly does this report didn’t think to put those 3 things in.

To you, the manager, these 3 things were “common sense” and are what you would have done if you had been assigned the task.

So, what happened? Why didn’t the job get done the way you wanted?

It started when you, the manager, assumed it was “common sense” to include these 3 items and because of that assumption, decided it wasn’t necessary to explain very specifically and clearly what was expected of the staff member assigned to the job.

In other words, the task (result) wasn’t “effectively” communicated.

And, that’s another reason why people don’t do what you want at work.

To read the fourth and final part in this series of blogs, please click on this link to Organizational issues.