Giving Orders Is Less Powerful Than Gaining Enrollment

The most effective way to get someone to do something is not to threaten their life, but to find a way to make them actually want to do it. It’s especially true if it’s something they’ll need to do more than once. This the power of finding enrollment over giving orders. It works professionally, it works with kids, and we can even use it in our own lives.

Being ordered means somebody’s told you what you’re going to do. It takes a hierarchy and a justified (but not always just) authority to execute.

Being enrolled means opting-in to doing something. It takes a leader and/or a vision that can convince others to come along.

Here are some world examples you’ll probably recognize:

You’re ordered to complete a miserable job by a manager. You’re ordered to hand in an assignment. You’re ordered to force the square peg into the round hole because, “That’s how we’ve always done it here.”

You enroll in a class to study under a teacher you want to learn from. You enroll when you raise your hand to take on a project you think will be hard but that you can handle. You gain enrollment when you get your kid to keep their room clean because it’s how they get extra online time at night.

When we’re ordered our butt is on the line, when we’re enrolled we’ve got skin in the game. We don’t like to live with our butt’s perpetually on the line. Having skin in the game isn’t all fun either, but it makes sure we are at least paying attention, and at most finding the best mutual outcome.

From a leadership perspective, ordering others looks like the power move. The smartest person calls the shots and everyone else follows like a machine. In practice, enrolling works the same way only it sees people as independent participants, not automatons or robots who will automatically come along for a paycheck.

Enrollment is how real progress is made, how real change happens, and how purpose is self-discovered. Don’t order a job at work, enroll others in the objective at hand.

When we aren’t the leader, we also shouldn’t blindly accept an order to follow a path someone else paved either. We want choice. We want to choose to enroll ourselves in finding our best (mutual) path to getting the job done. It’s a mindset for the approach and it matters.

Quick mental reminders for seeking enrollment:

Don’t manage, lead. Don’t just say, do. Don’t order, enroll.

Ps. Enrollment is very much a Seth Godin word. “This Is Marketing” is still a great place to start if you want more.

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