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working girl

In other words, let people play to their strengths.

Steve Roesler


Right. That's what they were hired for, eh?

Bay Jordan


For a moment there I thought you had lost the plot, but was relieved to see it was just the headline. I thought we were in agreement that one of the root causes for the employee engagement problem is that employers prescribe too much of the how, so the headline gave me reason to pause. However, your message is spot on, so forgive me for doubting you! :)



So obvious, but reminders such as this are still needed, Thanks


Have to admit, when I read the title I thought you meant "give people the how" as in tell them. Glad you take the opposite approach.

Derek Irvine, Globoforce

Great post, Steve. You're right. Why'd we invest to hire these talented people if we don't trust their talents? The hard part for some managers is stepping back from the auto-response: "That's not how *I* would have done it."

True, it's likely not. But it could also be much better.

Steve Roesler

Bay and David,

Thanks for the "duh" moment. I went back and looked at the title and thought, "That's not what I meant!"

So thanks for the new title:-)


Steve Roesler


Isn't it fascinating how the obvious can become obscured? Thanks for weighing in.

Steve Roesler


No matter how long I live, manage, and write about these things, the urge to "auto respond" never seems to leave. Now I'm convinced that the trick isn't to get rid of the urge--it's part of the human condition--but to create a different auto response.

Appreciate you taking time to join the conversation.


I definitely agree with what you're saying Steve -- leaving workers some opportunity to be creative helps keep them happy and motivated. The flip side of the coin of leaving the "how" to others is the fear that goes along with giving up control. I know I often feel like I know better than others the best way to perform or implement a task, and it can be frustrating to watch others slug along. On the whole though, I think the plusses outweigh the minuses.

Josh F

Nice post Steve! I think it is definitely important to allow room for creativity among workers. Immediately, a company like Google comes to mind. They give their workers time to work on their own personal projects, which seems to help foster a high employee satisfaction and a strong work ethic. Of course, I'm sure not all work forces would have the same drive and ethic when given room for the "how," but nevertheless in the correct environment some freedom can definitely be beneficial.


This insights are the reason I follow your blog.

Steve Roesler


It really is about fear of losing control, isn't it? But I have a saying that has served well for a long time: "You can be in charge, but you're never in control!"

Thank you for stopping by and adding your thoughts.

Steve Roesler


You've got me thinking more about this now.

Thinking back over a (long) career in management and leadership development, I can't say that I've found any entire workforce that, as a whole, didn't have drive or a good work ethic. It's always been an individual issue or, if a group was lethargic, it was often a leadership issue.

That said, there are some industries in which I've worked that don't allow for a lot of "how": nuclear energy, airlines, and anything else involving safety where the consequences are fatal. But in those industries, the "how" is often satisfied by having it addressed in other ways such as scheduling, customer service, and continuous improvement.

Josh, it's the end of the day and you have helped cancel out the last alert brain cell. Much appreciated by the family!


Kerry Atkins

New reader chiming in on the discussion. Your message is spot on. Give employees the "what" and the "why," and they'll figure out the "how." Next step... share the glory, talk up their achievements to senior management. Not only will you inspire engagement, you'll build trust. Trust matters!


Jim Morgan

Well said, Steve. This is an issue in which ethics and productivity mesh nicely. Business ethicists have suggested that giving people as much control over their working lives as possible--as much as the boss wants for himself or herself--is the necessary conclusion of most ethical systems. At the same time, the research has shown that this is a critical part of engagement (and related earlier buzzwords). By giving people control over "how," they become personally invested, and thus self-motivated to do well at the task. In short, the boss's idea becomes the employee's idea.


So accurate! I feel like what you're discussing is the difference between speaking to your employees and speaking with your employees. As a manager, the role tends to involve a lot of speaking to, but it is always important to remember to step back and speak with employees. This approach definitely inspires engagement and I believe also increases productivity and creativity. I think that someone who is successful at being in charge knows when it is time to step aside and ask instead of tell.


Excellent post Steve! Currently, I am reading “Carrots and Sticks Don’t Work” by Dr. Paul Marciano. This book will engage you at work, whether you are a manager or just a worker. Also, you can increase employee engagement in your organization by following Dr. Marciano's steps to RESPECT.

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