Breaking the Mold of Waiting to Be Told

In a recent blog post entitled "The relentless search for 'tell me what to do", guru Seth Godin writes:
If you've ever hired or managed or taught, you know the feeling.

People are just begging to be told what to do. There are a lot of reasons for this, but I think the biggest one is: "If you tell me what to do, the responsibility for the outcome is yours, not mine. I'm safe."

When asked, resist.

Far be it for me to question someone who probably gets paid 50-100 times what I do to give a speech, but I think he's disproportionately placed the blame for this phenomenon on the back of employees.

Equally if not more culpable are the managers or bosses whose mindset and actions foster a Wait to be Told culture.

  • It's hard to assume responsibility for decisions you're not allowed to make.
  • Always having to get someone's approval to act inhibits you exercising initiative.
  • You lose your desire to innovate if your new ideas are always rejected at the top.

Too many managers still operate from a command and control paradigm, one that fosters the very "tell me what to do mindset" Godin bemoans.

No doubt some prospective volunteers or employees come into an organization wanting to be told what to do. Perhaps their past experience with ill-conceived management is the real source of that expectation.

Until our organizational cultures advance the real sources of individual motivation as addressed in Dan Pink's new book Drive—autonomy, mastery, and purpose—we should expect little to change.