Order Lunch, Not Workers

By William T Batten


There’s a school of management that says if you want an employee to do something, you order them to do it.

Make it clear and concise.

Set expectations and tell them to meet them.

Now, there’s merit to this. In a workplace, you should say what you need from your people.

You can, in fact, “order” them to do it.

But this is where a lot of leaders find themselves stuck.

They think that because they’re the boss – it says so right there on their business card! – that they can order folk to work hard and innovate.

Telling people what to do is like a magic trick. It looks simpler than it is, and the real work happens behind the scenes.

If you skip all of that, you run into problems.

Your motivated employees with the right attitude will do their best.

Or I should say, they’ll do their best to do their best.

But this style of management doesn’t work without trust – even if your employees want it to.

Unless you put in the time beforehand, your people won’t follow your orders for anything more complex than working a photocopier.

You might think I’m exaggerating.

Or you might think of counterexamples, like in the military. Refuse to follow orders and you wind up in court of the “martial” variety.

Except anyone with military experience will tell you that’s nonsense. It’s a terrible officer who relies on their rank to lead their people.

I’m reminded of a story I heard. On the inside door of an officer’s mess, it says something like: “If by stepping through this door you lost your rank, would your people still follow you?”

The military loves a strict hierarchy.

It deals in split second, life-or-death situations.

Even so, the best militaries stress the importance of leadership. Want your people to follow you into the brink? You can’t just order it and hope for the best.

It may be a whole lot safer, but the corporate workplace is exactly the same.

People want to be innovative, inspired and productive.

But they need help getting there.

Who knows why, but bad leadership causes us to shut down the parts of us we need the most.

Great leadership invites us to be our best selves.

If you want your employees to give you your best work, then you’re hardly alone there.

But if you take the time to build the relationship with them… well, you will be in the minority.

The top tier of leaders who seem to always get the best from their people.

This sounds obvious, but it’s easy to get caught up with the minutiae of your day.

And once you reach those lofty ranks where the people under you have people under them, it can be hard cultivating all those relationships.

But if it were easy, everyone would do it.

The best way to enhance your organisation is with the ultimate advantage: trust.

But how do you measure something like that, let alone improve it?

Especially if your workforce is stretched thin, cynical and burned out on change?

There are simple, effective and proven strategies you can begin implementing today. I know you can unlock the creativity, productivity and joy of your employees.