Stop Telling People What to Do, Ingage their Hearts Instead

by:Evan Hackel

Evan Hackel

I am a CEO, and I have worked with many other top executives during my career. So I speak from experience when I say that this could be the biggest day-to-day frustration many leaders face . . .

“I tell people what to do, but they don’t do it.”

This issue comes up time and time again. Just recently a franchising executive told me, “Last month I sent out a detailed five-step marketing plan to the managers of our regional stores, and near as I can tell, none of them got past step two.”

Another executive states, “I never got a response to an email I sent out, probably because nobody read it.”

You talk, you communicate, you spell things out, but somehow only a small percentage of your initiatives come to completion. So you bear down, discipline people, or offer incentives, which doesn’t work either.

I have found a solution to this problem, which I call Ingaged Leadership. I explore this new philosophy of leading in my book Ingaging Leadership, but let me summarize a few of its key points here so you can test it and get it working for you.

What Is Ingaged Leadership?

Ingagement is founded on the belief that when you align people and create an organization where everyone works together in partnership, that organization becomes vastly more successful. It isn’t a single action that you take just once. It is an ongoing, dynamic business practice that has the power to transform your organization, your people, you and ultimately, your success.

What Do Ingaged Leaders Do Differently?

Ingaged leaders believe that it is not enough to tell people to do. They understand that if they want to unlock the full potential of any organization and its people, it is necessary to involve people’s minds, creativity and emotions. I called it Ingagement with an “I” because it gets people Involved, Invested and Inspired.

Getting Started as an Ingaged Leader

That all might sound theoretical. But it isn’t. Here are some ways you can start Ingaged Leadership today. I invite you to try them and see for yourself how quickly they can improve your effectiveness as a leader.

  • Set aside personal opinions about what works and what doesn’t and let people test their own ideas. Of course, any good CEO will stop employees from doing things that are sure to be disastrous. But the fact is, too many leaders step in, err on the side of caution, and stifle people’s inborn drive to strive for great things. I would urge you to get your ego out of the mix and let people try things that are unproven or even risky. More often than not, the results they achieve will greatly surpass your expectations.
  • Don’t just listen well, constantly look for nuggets of value in what other people are saying. Early in my career I thought I was a good listener. In fact, people told me that I was because I sat quietly, didn’t interrupt, and paid attention. But a time came when I realized that although I was attentive, I was only listening closely so I could catch faults in other people’s statements so I could prove them wrong and advance my own plans. I turned that around, began to listen for nuggets of high value, then developed them in concert with the person who had suggested them. The result was a quiet revolution in my leadership effectiveness.
  • Build a top management team that is positively disruptive. That means resisting the temptation to surround yourself with “yes people,” “people who are just like me” and people who prefer the comfort of “group think” to shaking things up. Also have the courage to recruit people who are genuinely better than you at doing certain things, and let them. Their efforts will free you and your results will soar.
  • Ask for help and offer help. Both activities are signs of strength, not weakness.

A Case Study of Ingaged Leadership

In case you think that all this is theoretical, it is not, as this story proves. Last year I had a call from one of my clients, a franchise brand. I cannot give the company’s name in this article, but you know them. They have branded walk-in locations in hundreds of cities and towns across America – probably near where you live.

The caller explained that the company had a very specific problem they wanted me to solve, which my contact summarized as, “Our annual conference is coming up in a few months, attendance has been in the low 20% for the last few years, and we would like you to get more of our store owners to attend. We will be rolling out a new store design and showing it to our people and that’s why we want to get most of our store-owners there.”

Our team called a number of franchisees to ask, “How do you feel about going to your annual conference?” Most of them responded by saying something like, “Oh, the conferences are fun and I get to socialize, but I never learn anything that the company isn’t going to tell me later on anyway. So why go?”  Further we found the franchisees didn’t feel like they were involved at the meeting, they felt like they were being talk at and being sold things. Those comments made it clear that the rollout of the new design was going to be a disaster.

I called my contact back in headquarters and suggested that instead of “selling” a completed new design, the company should structure the convention as an opportunity to let franchise owners come out to see the three different concepts, critique them, and give feedback.

All of a sudden, there was real value for people to go. They weren’t going to be talked at, they were going to be listened to. In other words, they were being Ingaged. The event sold out, to the point where no hotel rooms were available in the original hotel or two hotels nearby. In the end, there was more than 85% attendance. The meeting was a huge success.  Currently the new design is in testing in the field, but assuming customer reaction is strong and positive, there’s an anxious group of franchisees who are ready and willing to convert their locations. Involvement and listening where the keys to this success story.  A traditional hierarchical approach would have met with failure.

Putting the Power of Ingagement to Work

I could report more times when Ingagement has achieved great things. But in the end, all the stories I could tell you are not as important as the new chapters you can write in your own leadership journey. I invite you to add Ingagement to your leader’s toolbox as you watch your story unfold.