I recently read a great and very short post from the blog of Seth Godin, titled
The relentless search for "tell me what to do". The post read:
If you've ever hired or managed or taught, you know the feeling.
People are just begging to be told what to do. There are a lot of reasons for this, but I think the biggest one is: "If you tell me what to do, the responsibility for the outcome is yours, not mine. I'm safe."
When asked, resist. See original post.
Employees want to do more but in a 100 % safe environment, meaning all reward and no risk. Thats understandable but not realistic. So in essence "telling me what to do" means they have little risk and they truly don 't have to own anything. Managers when challenging, questioning, and coaching have to ensure when effort is made that they demonstrate support or the employee will stop trying and taking "perceived" risks.
We typically think of people NOT liking being told what to do, but think about your staff and fellow employees, and even yourself, how many times a week do we indirectly ask, “What should I be doing.” We may say, “what tasks should I be completing today,” or “I have the following problem, how should I fix it?” but all in all we are saying, “tell me what to do.”
This frame of thinking not only becomes a way to push off responsibility as Seth suggested above, but it can also breed laziness and a lack of accountability.
Managers can use coaching techniques to get employees to come up with their own solutions to problems. Use questions like, “What do you THINK you should do,” or “If you were me, what would you tell yourself to do.” These questions allow for a dialog to open, and you can now lead your employee to a suitable solution they essentially came up with on their own. When your employee owns the solutions they will work harder to make it work because it is their own butt on the line. If you simply give them a solution, they can half-heartedly attempt it, and if it fails they can blame you. Don’t play the blame game; make your staff responsible for their actions.If you are an employee, and you have finished your work for the day, proactively seek additional projects you can work on. Go above and beyond, but keep your manager in the loop to ensure you are not wasting time. Employees sometimes need to be coached on "receiving coaching".