Don't tell people what to do; tell them who they are.
By Michael Dalton Johnson

Leadership is a complex subject that has been the topic of countless books. Opinions vary widely on what it takes to lead. What I have learned about leadership is that the difference between building a career and running the rest of your life isn't all that big.

The most subtle and powerful rule you'll ever learn for motivating people is to tell them who they are rather than telling them what to do.

Example: You're at the DMV, and you approach the clerk with an exasperated expression. You sigh and say, "This form is confusing; I can't figure it out." The clerk looks at you disdainfully and advises you to read the instructions on the reverse of the form, looks past you, and says, "Next."

Now imagine approaching the same clerk with the same problem.

This time, however, you approach her with a smile and say, "You look like the person who can answer a couple of questions for me about this form."

The clerk smiles back and says, "Let's see what you've got here," and quickly answers your questions.

In the first example it's all about you and your problem. In the second example it's all about the clerk. You began your request by telling her who she is by acknowledging her as an expert with the knowledge that can help you. She immediately wants to prove you right and she does.

The same approach works equally well with employees and vendors.

Example: You call an employee into your office and say, "I need you to get this report finalized. I need it by next Friday."

The employee sighs and resignedly says, "Okay."

If, however, you were to say, "Jeanette, you came to mind immediately as the perfect person to get this report finalized."

Jeanette smiles and says, "I'll do my best."

Just as in the first example, your initial statement was again all about you and your needs. In the second, you acknowledged Jeanette's competence and professionalism and expressed confidence in her abilities. She will work hard to prove you right.

Excerpted from Rules of the Hunt. Available at Amazon.

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