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Why People Tell Others What to Do!

Can you remember when you were a young child?

Did your parents or those that cared for you generally ask you what you wanted to do and where you wanted to go? Or did they say we are going out, eat your greens and don’t swear at granny!

Ask or tell? In most cases it was tell most of the time.

And when you went to school for the first time (and most days after that) did someone say, “Whose class would you like to be in, where would you like to sit and what would you like to learn?” Or did they generally tell you which classes to attend and what to do?

Ask or tell? Again in most cases it was tell most of the time.

And what about that first job? Did your boss ask you to help agree your job description, what you wanted to do and how you wanted to be trained? Or were you told what to do, where to sit and given training they wanted to give you.

Ask or tell? In most cases it was tell most of the time.

Most if not all your role models were tellers so it isn’t surprising that the cycle continues. So when it is your turn to lead did you rub our hands and say “whoopee it’s my turn to tell others what to do.”

Our research suggests this is the biggest reason and there are two other significant reasons to add.

The first of these is the belief that it is quicker to tell and solve the problems of others…and it maybe in the moment and the very short term). If you are a parent you might remember your first child asking you to fasten their shoe or tie their shoelace (and if you aren’t a parent just imagine this or think of your own example).

You were happy to show them and it was quick and easy. But imagine if they kept coming back until they were twenty! Not quicker now having spent so many few minutes over the years.

Yet that is exactly what happens when we tell others what to do and fail to help them to learn new things or to solve their own problems. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t share your knowledge and experience to help others – of course you should. Yet by asking first we raise the awareness of others and help them to think. Without this we stifle creativity and innovation.

The second reason is the fear of losing control. What if they come up with things we don’t like or it goes in a wrong direction? Yet by asking others we harness their mind, generate more ideas and people take ownership for the things they come up with.

But because these beliefs and habits are often deeply rooted, many people aren’t even aware they do this.

Telling others what to do is also at the root of many challenges in schools and businesses.

  • More than two thirds of employees across the UK are not engaged in their job and nearly one in five are actively disengaged (meaning they go out of their way to sabotage things).
  • Over one third of employees say they are bullied, with the main culprit bring their boss, who coerces them to do things they don’t want to do or delivers what they call ‘banter’.
  • Over half of people leaving their job say it is because of their boss.
  • Having a lack of control over their job is one of the six main causes of stress, according to the Health and Safety Executive.

None of this develops independence and interdependence or allows young people to be prepared to meet life’s challenges. Neither does it generate solutions or build high performance.

For this people have to know how to find their own solutions and take responsibility for delivering them. This is what coaching provides – a framework to do this. To support others and to also use the same framework to coach yourself.

It may take a little more time when you stop telling people what to do or solve their problems and start to ask questions like, “What would you do?”

Once the habit is formed others will thank you as they creatively find solutions to their challenges and know how to set and achieve goals.

It is so powerful and it’s why we sort recognition from the Institute of Leadership and Management.

If you ant to find out more about how coaching will transform your and your school’s performance just get in touch.