WHEN you request your employees to do something, it may seem to you that they are thinking, "You can't make me".

As a manager, what can you do to increase the chances of your team members cooperating? More importantly, how can you get their "buy in" regarding organisational goals?

The answers to these questions lie not just in the words you use when you talk to your staff. The stage is set for cooperation - or the lack of it - even before you make a request. It starts with what you think about your staff and how well you listen to them.

Think positive

One of the best ways to set a positive tone with employees is to examine the way you think about them. You must change any "half empty" thinking to "half full" thinking.

How many times have you thought: "He's so arrogant!" or "She's so indecisive." Your staff can tell when your view of them is negative and are less likely to want to do a good job for you as a result.

Why not change the negative interpretation of "arrogant" to a neutral or positive one, such as "He knows his abilities" or "He's self-confident"?

Or change "She's indecisive" to "She's open to new ideas" or "She's flexible".

Ask for more

Another way to get cooperation from your team members is to be open to their feedback and suggestions. When they feel heard, they are more likely to hear you.

When I was a new supervisor, one of my mentors gave me a precious piece of advice that has served me well for over 20 years. She advised that when I receive constructive criticism or feedback I should ask for more information.

Some of my favourite phrases for "asking for more" include:

* "How do you mean?"

* "Can you be more specific?"

* "Can you give me an example?"

* "Could you elaborate please?"

* "Tell me more."

And to take it one step further, you can solicit input from the person sharing the feedback by asking for his suggestions. These phrases include:

* "What do you suggest?"

* "What would you like to see happen?"

* "What do you think we should do?"

* "How should we resolve it?"

* "In your opinion, what should be done?

Do it better

You are a step ahead of the game when you can see your team member in a positive light and when you are willing to consider his or her input.

Yet, it still sometimes seems that the resistant employee is thinking: "Why should I enthusiastically carry out your request?" and "What's in it for me?"

In the 14 years that I have been conducting workshops for companies on "working together better", I have got feedback from hundreds of employees as to why they don't want to cooperate. This feedback seems to fall in four categories:

1. Lack of appreciation

One woman told me that she had been working for the same company for 15 years and had not once been told "good job" or "thank you". She said that although she had to comply with the boss' requests so she wouldn't get fired, she confessed that she did just enough to get by.

2. No big picture

Many employees say that they toil away day after day in their own cubicle, often unaware of how their tasks fit into the organisation's bigger picture.

Employees indicate that they would feel more motivated to do a good job if they could see how their daily work contributes to the organization. They want to know that what they're doing has a purpose and makes a difference.

3. No sense of belonging

We've all heard the expression, "people don't care how much you know until they know how much you care." Employees want to feel that they are part of a team that cares about them as people.

Holiday parties, company picnics, birthday cards and other acts of caring go a long way in getting an employee's cooperation. After all, most people will go out of their way to help someone they care about. But, they may not do the same for someone they perceive as distant and uncaring.

4. Inconsistent consequences

This is the Number One complaint from employees at companies large and small. As one person put it: "Some people are getting away with doing very little and nobody is doing anything about it!"

Or, to paraphrase this: "Why should I work so hard when everyone else is slacking off?"

Your staff will be more willing to do a good job when they feel that good performance is rewarded and bad performance is discouraged.