Compel, Don’t Tell…. When your directness may alienate.

I had a client who came to me because he felt that when he spoke to the teams he worked with, they thought he was arrogant and aloof. He knew he needed to connect with them better in order to get better results.


That’s some bad-ass self-awareness.


Do you have a clear vision of what needs to get done, and how, but ‘the idiots’ you work with just don’t get it? Do you ever wonder how something so simple in your mind doesn’t seem to translate? Are you super-direct? Does your voice tend to be quick, strong, firm, using short sentences, and generally somewhat louder than others’?

Do you have the connection you want and get the results you need from your team?

Would you rather not have to deal with the teams you have to work with, maybe thinking they’re ignorant, stupid, or take too long to ‘get it’?

Has this happened on more than one occasion, in more than one position, contract, or company?

Yes? Good.

The teams are not the problem. You are.



You might not want to hear that, because you don’t like people telling you that you might be doing something in the wrong way. (No-one does really.)

Some people have stopped reading. You, however, are still here because you know, even if a part of you doesn’t want to admit it, that I just spoke some truth. That gives me hope, hope for you, for your business and for the people who work with you.

You know that there are some members of the teams you work with who don’t listen to you, others who say ‘yes’ without understanding and some who are too shy, uncertain, or (let’s be honest) may be intimidated by your potential response, to say ‘No, sorry, I don’t get it.’

You also know that there are other ways to do things, but they take time you haven’t got and add to your workload. It would be much easier if they gave you people who were not so stupid. (Your thoughts, not mine!)



How much easier would it be if there was a formula you could use to get your team to listen, understand, take action and get the results you need? Let’s face it. You are their leader, their manager, the one in charge, and the one who’s going to suffer if it doesn’t work out in the end. I know you know that keeping doing the same things is going to keep getting the same results.

Not only that; but you are going to keep creating more work for yourself.
That means more effort and adds to already high stress levels.
Firstly, you don’t need to change who you are. Direct, results driven, passionate, knowledgeable people are needed to drive teams forward. However, if I’m going to be as direct (possibly blunt) as you: you do need to adjust your approach.

The longer you continue to expect others to fit to your way, the greater your challenges will be, the bigger the resentment or reluctance of your team and the longer it takes to get the results you’re after.

So, how can you get them to do the work that needs to be done, the way it creates the results that you need? What can you do to make your life easier?

How do you engage and connect with your team?

By learning to compel them, rather than tell them what to do.

It may be that you, like another client of mine, don’t see the point in small-talk, or knowing the names of someone’s children, or what’s going on at home, you’re busy and have a thousand things to do on your desk the team don’t even know about.

How does small talk and knowing personal stuff get the problem solved?
‘How would that help?’ she asked. It helps because most people work better for people, not for results, or demands – it helps to build relationships and rapport. Even as a contractor (or especially as a contractor in fact) – if you’ve come in to lead a team and get something done, it helps to get to know them.

How? Because, when you take the (precious – I know-) time to connect with the individuals who make up your teams, when they see the human side of you, not just the boss, and when you start thinking of them as people who a) have the ability to alleviate some of your work problems and b) understand they may have their work effected by external elements ….. then you know the qualities that can be best utilised, to create the best outcome.

If you start looking at your role as someone who guides, inspires and helps them to do their work better, then they are more likely to be more inclined to work harder, or better, for you. This leaves you more time and space to focus on the things that deserve your attention.

The number one thing you can do as the leader of your team is to listen.

Yes, there are things I could help you become aware of: the tone you use and the way you hold you body and how that effects both your voice and your impact, and how the thoughts behind your words leak out. For example; if you’re thinking “God they’re all so stupid!” when you’re saying “So, have you got that?” trust me, they will hear or feel the ‘your stupid’ thoughts.

Instead, connect with:

a) the skills and abilities they bring to the job


b) the things that motivate them (rather than what motivates you, or what you think they might be motivated by.)

It may also be useful to know anything external that may cause them challenges – if you are aware that someone is dyslexic, for example, you then know why it takes them longer to read something, or why they may not seem to speak up so often, in meetings. If you know they have a relative with special needs then the reason they seem to leave at 5:30 on the dot suddenly becomes clear and understandable, rather than a frustration.

The way you learn these things is to:

1) Ask the right questions

2) Sit back and LISTEN to their answers

3) Communicate your requirements with the words and in a tone which that person, or team, understands and connects to. (Rather than how you would connect to)

It may take up some of your time to start with, but connecting with your team will create quicker and clearer communication and therefore likely better results in the long run. If you have a big team, maybe try it out with one or two members that you feel most challenged by, or try it in a group team meeting.

Top tips:

Change your mindset in relation to your team – ask yourself how they can help solve your problems?
Embody those thoughts about how they can help & it will reflect in your voice.
Listen to the way you talk to your team or its members. How does your voice sound? Would you be inspired, encouraged by, or respond to the tone/volume/words/ intention behind what you say?

If you want twelve effective questions to ascertain your team’s skills & motivations then type ‘yes’ in the comments below, or email me on

Finally, but by no means least of all….

If in doubt? Breathe!