How To Get People To Do What You Want Them To Do (In 3 Simple Steps!)
By consistently following these three steps you will see success beyond your wildest dreams.
For those of you who are long-time readers, or if perhaps you are someone who knows me In Real Life, you know that I work in the field of Financial Capability. Financial Capability is a field that operates primarily within the nonprofit human service or community development arena and encompasses providing consumers (typically those living on lower incomes) with the knowledge, skills, and access to financial products and services that enables them to live more financially secure lives.
Sound good? Yes, I think so too, as this is the professional field that I have been proud to be a part of for the past 25 years. But providing needed services to humans who can benefit from them is wrought with challenges. Namely, how do you get said people to show up and access said services so that they can make improvements in said lives?
This is a question that gets posed to me in one fashion or another in my consulting and professional development training practice. And to be fair, there is no magic wand that I can wave or silver bullet that I can shoot (or insert any other metaphor-of-your-choice) to get people to do what you want them to do, even if you know it is going to make their lives better.
But I do have a simple-but-not-easy 3-step approach to get people moving in the right direction:
Step 1: Be curious
When you are setting up a new service to help people be better versions of themselves, I bet that you have an idea of how it should go. You have read the research. You know how many low-income people live in your community. You might know their credit scores. You might even know their rate of public benefit usage. You say to yourself, “Self, I am going to do good work here. People need my financial capability services so I am going to hang out a shingle and they are going to walk right in and use them and be more financially secure.” And then what happens? You guessed it, crickets.
What should you do? You know the stats so you think you know what people need. But I think that we can all agree that what people need and what people want are two different things. So then what? Now is the time to walk out your office door and start talking to people. Target people who don’t typically respond to your surveys or attend your focus groups. Get to know them. Ask them questions. Be curious. What you might find may surprise you.
Recently I was talking to a new group, a population that I had never taught before (they were training for union jobs in the building trades). Before the workshop I was getting to know the manager and I asked him what money topics he thought his students might want to learn about. His reply was, “Well, they all will have pensions so I am not concerned about their retirement. I am more concerned about how they will be managing their money day to day.”
Later, as the apprentices were slowly filing into the room to get ready for our workshop I casually asked, “If we were to do a longer series on money topics, what do you think other people might want to talk about?” [Did you catch the “other people” part? Yup, I did that on purpose.] The first person to pipe up said, “I’d like to learn more about preparing for my retirement outside of my pension.” Then a second and a third student agreed. Okay, now this is interesting. By casually quizzing the students I learned something that I could not have learned from the manager alone, and this made me more curious to find out what other types of material they might engage with.
Step 2: Be trustworthy
I do not think that trust can be overstated in relation to providing a service where you get to talk to people about their money. With such a shame-filled topic, people need to trust you in order to step outside of their daily lives to engage with you. So how to you build that trust among your future customers? I think that the first tactic is through Step 1, by taking a keen interest in the lived experience of your customers. Get to know them. Let them get to know you. Show up. Show up again, and show up in methodical and predictable ways. What could this look like in practice?
Maintaining a regular schedule of speaking engagements when people can come out and meet you
Communicating in a predictable way through social media so that potential clients come to anticipate hearing from you
Showing up at community events and being available in a transparent way to not only your current clients but also to people who might become clients someday
And once you start seeing customers in your program, give them exemplary customer service that knocks their socks off. Show them time and time again that you care about their well-being. Your consistent and stable presence in your customers’ lives will show them that you are trustworthy, and you will be rewarded with an army of loyal supporters who will start doing your marketing and outreach for you.
Step 3: Be patient
Getting people to do the things that you want them to do will not happen overnight! Think back to an accomplishment that you are particularly proud of. Can you think of one? What did it feel like to reach that goal? Did you feel good about yourself? Were others proud?
Now think about the specific date when you started on the path to reach that goal. How long did you think about what you wanted to accomplish before you actively started working on it? If you are like me, the time from start to completion is a lot longer than you initially recall. (This relates back to another post on Changing for Good by James O. Prochaska. You can read it here.)
So what should you do while you are being patient and waiting for your devoted customers to appear? Practice Step 1, then practice Step 2, then rinse and repeat as necessary.
With those 3 simple-but-not-easy steps – Be curious, Be trustworthy, Be patient – you will start to see that the people you seek to serve will begin to do the things that you want them to do. And I will go on to predict that even more will happen. You will begin to give your clients what they really want that will make their lives better today. You will trust your clients to do amazing and wonderful things with their lives that are beyond your wildest expectations. And you will reap the loyal following that will allow you to do the work you wish to do for the long while to come.