How To Get Your Team To Do What You Want – A Simple Approach for Small Business Owners To Follow

Just 4 simple questions will help you solve one of the biggest problems for small business owners – and I promise you, they will work for you like they work for my clients!

Working with many small and medium business owners, I find one of the most common complaints is “Why can’t my people just do what they are supposed to do? “

For business owners it can be a huge issue resulting in doubt about the future success of the business.

Typically, without your people doing what they are supposed to do, the pressure on you as the owner soars; resulting in you putting in yet more hours in the business. In fact, the cry of “It’s easier to do it myself” becomes more and more frequent whilst the payroll cost stays the same. Unfortunately, ‘doing it yourself’ will put a glass ceiling on the ability of your business to grow. So, it needs to be fixed.

So, what’s causing the problem?

Well, the brutal reality is that the cause of the problem is exactly the same as the source of the solution. It’s YOU!

It’s so easy to blame others but, as the owner of the business, you are responsible for all the successes and all the failures. The only reason (good or bad) that your business is where it is right now, is because of the actions you have taken. Do you agree?

Let that sink in for a minute… because the moment you accept that as the truth then we can move on. If you don’t accept it then stop reading now and email me; we need to talk.

OK, are you ready for the questions?

I’ve given some information below each of them to help define what is meant by each question.

Just 4 Simple questions to ask yourself to get your team doing what you want them to

1 Have I clearly explained what I want my people to do?

In my experience of working with business owners in Coventry and Warwickshire, not explaining what is needed and the consequences of the outcomes of their efforts is the Number 1 cause of people not doing what you want them to.

Typically, we business owners are not great at explaining with clarity exactly what we want people to do. Often, we expect people to “know” what to do. After all, we employed them to do the job, didn’t we? But if you haven’t explained what you want in a way that is understandable to the employee, how are they supposed to know what is in your mind? Pretty obvious, but few owners do this.

The solution is to have a written clearly defined role profile which breaks down each of the key elements or objectives of the role in plain language. The test is that if the employee were to do all the tasks on the list to your satisfaction, would you be happy? Also, if you weren’t around and somebody else had to do the job, would the role profile give enough clarity so you didn’t need to augment the description with some additional clarity?

As I stated earlier, a written job profile needs to be understood not only by you, but by your employee too. To make sure you have got the requirements of your profile clear, ask the employee if they understand it and to tell you in their own words how they interpreted it.
Sometimes their responses will surprise you. At first, it might mean you have to do some rewording of the profile but over time responses will become more consistent and this process could even show up points in the business where you need to improve.

Role profiles are different from Corporate Job Descriptions or job titles, which have become much more vague over recent years. Properly completed role profiles take the ambiguity out of what is to be expected. If you’d like to see an example of a role profile, then please email me.

2 Have I clearly defined what a good job looks like; will they be able to know what results will create success and make me happy?

The second biggest issue I come across, far too regularly, is the member of staff just can’t quite do enough to satisfy the demands of the owner. Yet when challenged, the owner can’t tell me with clarity how they intend to measure the performance of the employee. They just expect the employee to ‘Get it!’

Can you see how that is a recipe for dissatisfaction all round? The employee tends to feel that nothing they do is ever quite enough but has not got, and isn’t being given, clarity over what is needed to improve!

The solution is to define what outcome each particular job requires, key objectives, timing, consequences, etc., and to give some guidance on how you want that achieved. Unless it has to be an extremely rigid format, do not define the job down to the last tiny detail. The reason for this is that the employee may well find a better way of doing something than you have thought of. We don’t all work the same. As long as the result you defined is achieved or surpassed without detriment to other procedures, accept their changes.

By defining what a great job looks like, it can help everyone to know when they are successful. Do email me if you’d like to see an example of a role profile.

3 Have I helped them to understand the importance of the task at hand and how it benefits the rest of the team/business?

Most businesses have inter-dependencies between different teams and within team members, and the performance of just one team member can affect the performance of all others. Not just in terms of morale but also because a failure by one staff member can prevent the next from doing their task or even undo previously completed work.

Too often I have seen individuals and teams selfishly succeed at the cost of others within their organization. Not exactly a “One for all and all for one” attitude!

The solution is to ensure your staff really understand what is the common goal to which they are contributing and what their role is within the company/department to help achieve that goal. From experience, I’ve found that rather than having individual meetings, larger group meetings can be highly beneficial. These occasional company/department ‘awareness’ meetings are best done where as many as possible can attend and interact with staff in other departments. Another way I’ve seen done is for a couple of members of one department ‘present’ to another department how their particular function fits in with the whole company scenario. These short presentations usually take about 10 mins or less and can be highly effective to create a true picture awareness of the whole company operation.

I read a powerful story recently that illustrates this point: – A group of journalists were touring NASA back in the time of the moon shots and they came across a janitor who was busy sweeping the floor. What are you doing here? Asked one of the journalists, slightly looking down his nose at this chap. Without hesitation, the janitor replied “I’m helping to put a man on the moon.”

So how do your people feel they are contributing to the wider mission of your business?

4 Have set aside regular times for honest 1-2-1 reviews of their performance?

This is another area that I see frequently causing problems. There just isn’t enough 2-way communication going on within businesses; even, in fact especially, at senior levels.

So, right now, do you have a regular program of 1-2-1 meetings between an employee and their line manager? To be honest, those owners that do are in the minority of small business owners!

The benefits of these meetings are that the employee gets to assess their own performance against their given objectives and have that view validated (or otherwise) by their line manager. Just one word of warning here, do NOT call them evaluation, performance or assessment meetings. People do not like to feel they are constantly being judged by their employers and such meeting titles send that very message. Conversely, people do like to think of themselves as an important part of a process. So perhaps call them something like production meetings or development meetings. Any meeting title you like, as long as it doesn’t sound like it’s being judgemental of the employee. So many times I’ve heard people say ‘I’ve got my appraisal meeting tomorrow’ with the same tone of voice used as if being sentenced for murder.

No matter how good the employee’s performance is, these 1-2-1 meetings can be the opportunity to identify ways that the employee can contribute yet further. Where there are gaps in performance versus requirements, then there is the opportunity to do something about them. It should also be the time when an employee can suggest to the employer/manager ways in which they think operations can improve, or are lacking, but may be outside of their scope of employment. Many is the time when employees have identified possible points of improvement that an employer would be hard pressed to be aware of.

If nothing else a 1-2-1 review, when done correctly, enables the staff member to feel valued and heard. Which is going to make them a better employee and more likely to do what you want them to! If you’d like some ideas on how to set up an appraisal system, then please just drop me an email.


Great communication within a business is not hard to do, but it is also very easy not to do. Before you file away this paper, please take 5 minutes to jot down your key learnings from this article and decide what actions you want to take to improve team performance over the next 90 days.