When I say jump, you say how high

(image by Carl Blake)

When I say jump, you say how high.

This reaction from a worker to his manager gives us a lot of information about their relationship.

By asking “how high”, he implies that he doesn’t question the order and already agrees to do it.  Why would this happen?

Here are a couple of scenarios.

  1. The worker has the same understanding of the goals and vision of the manager. And therefore already knows why he is told to jump. They are on the same level and both committed to the same thing.
  2. The worker has no idea why his boss asks him to jump, but knows that if he doesn’t do it, bad things will happen. Goals and vision are inside the head of the manager and translated into commands towards his subordinates.  The only thing the worker dares to asks is how high he needs to jump.
  3. The worker doesn’t know why his boss tells him to jump, and doesn’t care. He will do what he is told and nothing more. In order to perform the jump, he needs to know the height.

I personally prefer option 1. This requires trust between both parties. A manager needs to share and include workers in goals definition in order to get a motivated, committed workforce.

When transitioning to option 1, you’ll know you’re on the right path if you hear this:

“When I say jump, you ask me why”

It means that there is trust to question and talk about the goal and vision. Workers are interested and want to find out. Managers are open to share and include people.

Different mindsets can often be noticed by small sentences.

About Nick Oostvogels

Hi, I'm an independent management consultant. My biggest strengths are located in the fields of teamwork, motivation, leadership and continuous improvement. In the IT industry you find a lot of these values in the agile movement, in which I often act as a project leader, product owner or coach. My interests go a lot further, into other industries where we find these values in lean production. Besides that, I try to broaden my horizon as much as possible, always looking for better ways of doing business.

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