Leaders are charged with having a vision and gaining the cooperation of those required to execute that vision. Essentially, leaders need followers.
To gain followers, we must ask ourselves: what would inspire this person to take an interest in assisting me in getting my needs met?
Sometimes the threat of losing a job or being faced with the consequences of failing to perform are enough to inspire someone. Typically, there’s a better way, and one which inspires better performance. Meeting the needs of others is the easiest way to gain their assistance in your attempt to get your needs met. This is the Reciprocity—you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.
Reciprocity cuts both ways, though. If you offend me or don’t appreciate me, I will typically find a way to frustrate your objectives. We are attracted to assist those who assist us. We can use this human tendency to our advantage as leaders by identifying the needs of others and attempting to meet those needs.
What Are Needs?
Many needs are substantive: money, food, a car. These needs drive and motivate us. There is another subset of non-substantive needs which plays an equally important role in motivating us.
Examples of non-substantive needs are: appreciation, validation, inclusion, trust, independence.
What happens to you when your needs are being met, or you believe they will be met if you assist someone else? That’s easy; you are inspired to assist them.
How Do You Identify Their Needs? Leadership Exercise
Effective leaders attempt to understand the people they lead. They actively seek out the needs of their potential followers so that they may convert them into willing followers.
Willing followers are those who are eager to see the leaders needs met, in exchange for meeting their needs.
If you lead a team of individuals, take out a sheet of paper and draw columns for each individual on your team. Spend a few minutes brainstorming about each individual and see if you can guess what some of their substantive and non-substantive needs are.
You will know some individuals better than others.
For those columns where you come up blank, make a point to initiate a brief conversation with that individual about their goals and objectives. Find out what their vision is for themselves in the company or their career.
Once you have gone through this activity; congratulations, you’ve identified their needs.
If there is a way to show them that by assisting you in your leadership role they will be one step closer to achieving their needs and goals, you may have just won a willing follower.
If your team is too large for individual meetings or a brainstorm session, you can make a request of your team by email that they answer a few questions for you about their goals and objectives.
Make it clear that your goal is to better understand everyone on the team so you can incorporate as many of their objectives as possible. When leaders communicate in this way, the members of their team feel cared for. When we feel cared for, we take interest in the person expressing care. We are inspired to assist them.
Replace Frustration With
The next time you are frustrated with the lack of performance of a team or team member, rather than asking yourself why people aren’t cooperating, ask a different question. Embrace curiosity. Ask yourself what their unmet needs might be. Then, take clear action toward communicating a desire to meet those needs.
My experience is you’ll see a near-immediate change in that individual’s perception of you and of the situation. Shortly following that will be the positive change in performance you are seeking.
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