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Leaders Ought to Know: 11 Ground Rules for Common Sense Leadership by Phillip Van Hooser

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Chapter 7

Why People Do What They Do

Ground Rule #7
Leaders can’t predict followers’ behavior;
Leaders need to know why people do what they do.

The Worst Motivational Speech

“Hey, I need a favor, Phil,” my coworker Carl said casually as he slid into a chair in my office.

His words caused me to stop what I was doing and pay close attention.

“What’s up?” I asked, with more than a little apprehension.

I didn’t normally start conversations with such suspicion. However, I knew Carl. Carl was one of our frontline production supervisors and, frankly, not a very good one. He was likable enough. But as a supervisor, he was terribly hardheaded. He’d been elevated to supervisory status years before—a promotion based more on his production knowledge and seniority than on any kind of ongoing commitment to professional development and leadership competency.

Try as one might to help Carl, it was nearly impossible to get him to listen to any sort of reason or alternative leadership approach—especially if and when it ran counter to his own initial ideas and intentions. Simply put, he wasn’t very coachable. Somewhere along the line, Carl had convinced himself that his ideas were always the best ones and that he could get his employees to do anything he asked of them whenever and however he wanted. But I knew better.

As the human resources manager, I’d spent far too many hours in one-on-one conversations with Carl’s direct reports. I’d listened again and again as they vented their frustrations ...

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