People Don’t Like to Be Told What to Do

Fun timesWhen you were a kid, wasn’t it always more fun to play the games you wanted instead of what your parents told you that you had to do?

Of course it was.

So why do many employers in the corporate world today still try forcing their employees to do something they know they won’t like?

I find volunteerism to be an important part of individual success. My experience is that no one likes to be told what to do in any part of their life. (If you have kids, like I do, they can explain this to you in detail.) The reality is that once you are told what to do you become part of someone else’s vision. When you choose a path on your own,  it is your path – you have ownership over it and control over what you do with it. You become invested in the process and the outcome because you chose it.

Wharton Professor (and super cool guy) Adam Grant goes into some great detail about the affect this reality has on corporate giving programs in his report Giving Time, Time After Time: Work Design and Sustained Employee Participation in Corporate Volunteering. If you are a geeky people professional like me, you’ll enjoy the full read. Adam finds that, “In the absence of pressure, employees are more likely to feel personally responsible for the decision to volunteer, which will increase the likelihood of internalizing the volunteer identity.” He found that corporations got some short-term bumps when they put pressure on volunteering. But, long-term success increased when people chose their own direction.

If you know me, you know I love to recommend books that I haven’t finished reading yet. Well, I am in the middle of Multipliers by Liz Wiseman. It is also an awesome read, and so far, it reinforces much of how we operate at The Motley Fool. When describing some great leadership traits, Liz says that peoples’ best thinking should ” be given, to taken,” and that while a manager may be able to insist on a level of productivity and output, the employee’s efforts must be given voluntarily. She continues, “This changes the leader’s role profoundly. Instead of demanding the best work directly, they create an environment where it not only can be offered, but where it is deeply needed. Because the environment naturally requires it, a person freely bestows their best thinking and work.”

At The Fool,  we try to incorporate volunteerism in all of our projects and development programs.

 

I will always bet on the project led by the person who volunteered and has the passion for it, instead of the person who may be more skilled but was forced into the role.

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