Ungrateful Worker or Biased Leadership? Which side are you on?

      I was working with a very smart, visionary, driven young business unit General ManagerAnsel originally reached out for help to ‘fix’ his second in command, George

      Hbegan the conversation by sharing the struggles he was having. He identified the ‘hands-on’ tasks George did well, and then listed the myriad of things he needed George to do better to fulfill the duties of the role. 

      “What have you done so far to help George?” I asked. 

      “I’ve showed him what he needs to do several times and he just doesn’t get it.” Ansel’s frustration was evident. 

      After a few more minutes of conversation Ansel made the statement, “I don’t think he is the right person for the job!”   

      I offered this perspective, “If you don’t believe he can be successful, he can’t!”    

      Ansel glossed over this statement and went on to discuss some tactical things he might put in place to increase the training and accountability for this man.   

      I challenged him again, “You can put all that in place however if you don’t believe he can be successful, he can’t!”  Finally, he stopped for a moment and sat staring at me.    

      He started again, “Well I need to at least try to put some things in place to train him better, to make an attempt to help him be successful, don’t I? Isn’t that what a good leader does?”    

      “Share with me how all that training is going to help change your belief about this man?” I asked.  

      “Well maybe I will see that he can learn more of what I need him to learn,” he countered.  

      “Will you see that? Will you be looking for the things he does well, or will you be looking for the things that confirm your belief that he is not the right person for the job?” 

      Ansel paused for several moments. Then he said quietly, “I guess I’m the one who needs the coaching, right?” 

      After several coaching sessions Ansel, along with George, did come to the conclusion that George was not the right person for that particular role. However, they worked together to find a role in the organization that better suited George’s strengths.  

      You see, George was a great employee. He was loyal, dependable, a great culture fit and did some things really well. 

      Part of Ansel’s initial frustration was that he really didn’t want to lose George. He valued him as an employee. Yet he really needed someone in the ‘right hand’ role who could help carry the load. 

      Ansel concluded that on an unconscious level his beliefs were conflicted. On one hand he believed George was a great employee, and he also believed George wasn’t right for the role. 

      He was afraid of losing George and yet he expected George to fail. Therefore, he could only see the things George wasn’t doing well which heightened his frustration as he wrestled with this conflict. 

      Decades of research have proven that expectation is a powerful force. It acts on our perceptions much as gravity acts on light, bending them in ways that are measurable by others, but, at least to us, imperceptible.

      Not only do we tend to see what we expect to see, we also tend to experience what we expect to experience. 

      Through the coaching experience, Ansel discovered what drives his own behavior toward people which in turn helped improve his relationships with others in the organization. 

      He explored his beliefs and expectations of others. He started to have deeper conversations with his team and began creating a ‘direct & respect’ feedback culture throughout his organization.

      This shift led to much higher performance levels, both individually and as a team, and his employees reported a greater sense of satisfaction and contribution. 

      What beliefs do you have that are impacting your relationships? 

      Who have you already written off in your head? 

      What’s possible if you shift your perspective? What different conversations would you be having? 


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