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Why don't good people do what you want them to?

Do you ever get frustrated by people not doing what you want them to do? Or by the lack of progress against what you were expecting? Be it team members, friends, or children it can be perplexing when you make a simple request only to be met with non-compliance or a lack of progress. Now I believe that most people want to do a good job. So when someone isn't doing what you expect them to do, it's not out of spite or malice. It's worthwhile digging deeper and exploring why. And then you can remedy the true cause.

Here are some common reasons why good people don't do what you want them to:·

  • They don't know why the task is important. Not knowing why makes it easy for people to overlook what they need to be doing. Articulate the reason why, and if possible link it back to the company purpose and strategy This will help give others more clarity.

  • They don't know what the priorities are. In the modern-day culture of busy-ness people feel swamped and overwhelmed. Unless it's crystal clear, people will often prioritise differently to how you think tasks should be prioritised. Not through negative intent, but based on what they can see and feel right in front of them. Weekly 1:1s are an absolute must to help support people, keep them on track and align priorities. We have an awesome free toolkit you can access here to get the most value out of your one-on-ones.

  • They feel micromanaged or hate being told what to do. This explains why I don't do things most of the time! I hate being told what to do. The best approach if you have someone like me on your hands is autonomy and choice. Give high-level objectives, options and freedom. Frameworks like OKRs are great to create aligned autonomy

  • They don't feel the relationship is there. Getting people to do things without having a relationship is hard. Really hard. People value connection. It's really important to spend more time to get to know the whole of a person. Need help? Our awesome new game Quinks is available for order from here right now. Build people skills and better connection with your team members!

  • They don't know how or they lack confidence. People avoid doing things if they don't have the skills or knowledge. But they won't outright tell you this as they don't want to look stupid or incompetent. And so you get what looks like non-compliance. If you suspect this is the issue, asking questions like "what support or help can I give you" can be useful. Also, show some vulnerability about your own learning journey. And lastly, provide more genuine high-quality positive feedback and praise to build confidence.·

  • They don't feel valued. Not feeling appropriately recognised or rewarded is a shortcut to disengagement and lack of buy-in. Traditional reward and recognition like annual performance-based bonuses suck. Bring a bit of Surprise and Delight to your team to really make them feel valued and recognised.

  • They don't know where to start. Procrastination on starting a project can often occur when we're working on something that feels too big, large or far-away. The progress principle is really important here. Break big things down into really small steps. And work towards regularly completing these small steps. The beauty of this is that making progress increases motivation in and of itself. Completing a small first step gets the ball rolling.·

  • They are bored. Boredom is a real productivity killer. Boredom leads to complacency and not following up on things. How can you make the task more fun? How can you introduce game-like elements to better engage people?·

  • They don't want to do it. This is a classic if you've ever had the joy of negotiating with a toddler. Something I have to wrestle with this day in, day out. This usually requires creating a clear WIIFM (what's in it for me). Lucky toddlers love lollies and the iPad hey?

You can take the 5-minute Winning 6 Scorecard to see if you are bringing your people into the game. You'll receive a personalised scorecard and report to help you create a culture of proactivity, ownership and growth, where everyone is in it for the win.


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