He was a new supervisor and he seemed frustrated as we spoke.
“Why do I have to ask people to do things? Shouldn’t I be able to just tell them to do it?”
The short answer is, “Yes, you can tell them and they should respond.” But is that the way to build a productive, high-performance team? Is that the way you want your boss to relate to you?
When leading a team, it’s good to put yourself in your team member’s shoes. This is why, in our leadership workshops, we ask new leaders to develop a list of good and bad leadership characteristics they’ve observed and experienced. How did you feel when a boss simply told you what to do? How did you feel when a boss made requests rather than gave orders?
Of course, “Please” doesn’t have to be in every sentence. A similar approach is to use questions instead of statements. Asking instead of telling.
Some leaders feel this takes away from their authority. The truth is actually quite the opposite. Asking creates a more collaborative atmosphere, making workers feel less like subordinate tools and more like valuable and appreciated members of a team.
What about “Thank you?” The new supervisor also didn’t feel this was necessary but again, although not required, it is another word that produces great results.
We used to have a saying in the Air Force that absence of punishment is a reward in itself. Although not common, I occasionally find leaders who seem to subscribe to this idea. They think that if the team doesn’t hear from them, that’s good and their team probably feels that way too.
But, more productive teams have leaders that show team members genuine appreciation for their work. “Thank you” doesn’t have to be elaborate gifts or rewards. While those are no doubt appreciated, often a simple word from the boss has great value.
It’s just like your momma taught you. Say please and thank you. Those simple words can make the difference between a good team and a great team.