“Too many people waste precious energy trying to manipulate others, rather than simply asking the right questions”.— Misti Burmeister

She sat across the table from me, sharing about the improvements on her team since we last worked together. Darcie, a senior leader in the technology industry, had gotten complete buy-in across her whole organization for her new vision, and now the team was settling into their new groove.

“The energy has definitely begun to shift,” she shared. “People are really stepping up. The problem now is that I have a new boss, Sharon, and my team is not convinced that she’s on board with the new plans, and they’ve started questioning my decisions.”

What’s Their Agenda?

I wondered how much Darcie knew about Sharon. When I asked her to tell me about her, all I heard was the details of Sharon’s resume. Darcie knew very little about Sharon the person, her motivations, or her greater vision.

“Our conversations have been totally focused on business,” Darcie admitted. “What kind of questions should I be asking?”

I leaned back in my chair, looked at her and asked, “What kind of questions do you ask anyone you care about getting to know?”

The look on her face told me she didn’t know how to answer my question, so I continued with, “If you were ‘dating’ her, what would you want to know?”

Darcie still wasn’t sure where I was going with this, so I rattled off a few of the questions I’d want to know if I was about to spend a great deal of time with anyone:

  • I see that you started your career working for XYZ company. What made you decide to start there, and what did you learn from your time there?
  • You went from that company to a prominent position in education. Is education important to you? Why?
  • What made you decide to take this position?
  • Do you like this area of the country? Why/why not?
  • Do you like the outdoors? I do! What do you enjoy doing when you’re not working?
  • What does success in this position look like to you?
  • Do you like farm-to-table restaurants? Because, if you do, I have a few favorites I’d like to introduce you to. If not, what’s your favorite food?

Naturally, there are dozens more questions like these you could ask, but the point is to take an active interest in getting to know the people on your team.

 What’s Your Agenda?

We all have agendas. For example:

  • To get your team to perform better.
  • To get the promotion we want.
  •  To get paid more.
  • To slide by without getting noticed or asked to do much.
  • To get them to buy into our new direction. 

The problem starts when our agenda doesn’t align with the person or people we want to motivate. When we’re clueless about their motivational triggers, and determined to achieve our own, human nature kicks in and we subconsciously begin manipulating to get what we want.

As a result, people (and Darcie’s team is no different) begin to question, and even mistrust, our motivations.

In order to disrupt the natural desire to manipulate, Darcie needs to understand and align with Sharon’s motivations. Without this knowledge, Darcie cannot possibly know how Sharon’s agenda fits with the rest of the company’s, nor can she confidently answer the questions her team is asking about Sharon’s agenda.  

Too many people waste precious energy trying to manipulate others, rather than simply asking the right questions to discover what’s motivating the person (or people) on their team.  

Manipulation: pushing your agenda.

Motivation: understanding their agenda.

Sweet spot: merging both.

If you want to motivate others, stop wasting time trying to manipulate them into following your plan. Instead, figure out their plan, find the common ground between their goals and yours, and achieve success together.

JOIN THE CONVERSATION: Are you a manipulator or a motivator? Be honest! Share your best – or your worst – team building story and your lessons learned.

Thanks to Dexter Britain and Gillicuddy for their music contribution and LN Lurie for producing this podcast.

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