LEADERSHIP: Gratitude Changes Attitude

Sean writes....

How do I get someone to dedicate time and contribute to my project when they don't work for me. They’re assigned to my project, but they have several other projects as well. I’ve tried everything but I can't get them to really dedicate time or fully participate in the project, at least not in a sustainable way. They don't work for me so I can't force them. I'm afraid if I go to their boss it will make matters worse.

Please help.

Sincerely, Sean.


That’s a great question. This is something that happens all the time in matrix organizations, where you have people from multiple groups, working on one project. I’m sure there’s many of you out there that have experienced this as many times as I have.


  1. Appeal to their sense of higher purpose.

It’s important to understand that in general, people want to feel like they’re part of something bigger than them. So it may help your cause to convey that they really aren't doing YOU a favor; they’re helping the team, and contributing to the project goals, and ultimately, the company vision. You can make a stronger case when it’s something that doesn’t ultimately benefit either party and is part of a grander scheme.


  1. Persuade to aid.

What I mean, is to find a clever way to influence their behavior. I don't mean in an underhanded way, but sometimes we need to be creative in order to serve the greater good.

If you’re a project manager or a peer, you can say something like: “I know you’re on several projects, so you must be really busy, but we could really use some of your expertise with this particular issue.......”  

If you’re a manager or outrank them you could say something like: “The reason I asked you to my office to speak to you in confidence, is that we have an aggressive project schedule, and the team could really benefit from your experience and expertise with this ......  I would really appreciate it, if you could help them out on this.”

The benefit of this approach is:

  1. They’ll think it must be really important if a manager is speaking to them “in confidence,” and bringing them into the “inner circle.
  2. You’re appealing to their ego a bit by referencing their experience, and needing their help.
  3. Lastly, you’re personalizing this request a bit more than in the first approach. Coming from a manager, this may go a long way toward engaging their good will.


  1. Fiesta their “gestcha.”

What that means, is to “celebrate” their “gesture” of good will in helping you out.

When they use their discretionary effort on your behalf, find a micro victory to applaud. Even the slightest gain works. We’re looking for any reason to thank them, and reward their effort, so that we incentivize them to repeat the behavior. Also, it doesn’t hurt to bring them a coffee or take them out to lunch. You decide what the assist is worth to you, and the company. An investment in building allies for our mission, ALWAYS provides a good return.


A display of gratitude goes a long way toward changing their attitude.


When all else fails, you can always find a blunt object.........just kiddingggggg.......

Seriously, it's important that you don't take out the big stick, if you don't have to. Heavy handed tactics often backfire, and don't usually work long term.

So Sean thanks for the question. I hope it helps your situation, and keep the questions coming.


Do you agree? Let me know what you think. I would love to hear your unique perspective.


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