As a leader, in each and every interaction with our team members, we all have opportunities to see them in one of two ways, as people who have value or as things to try and control or dismiss. This distinction and the choice you make in how to see them has immense implications for the way you engage and work with them as well as to the culture of your workplace.
If leaders see people as things, specifically, a means to an end or an obstacle in the way, the possibility of kindness and understanding is considerably lessened because people are no longer humans with feelings, needs, and challenges, they’re just machines to complete tasks, or worse yet, objects to remove. This thinking leads to observable behavior that people feel which causes hesitation to willingly follow. This hesitation leads to not volunteering best efforts which ultimately results in people becoming dreaded clock punchers who do the very minimum to keep their jobs. Frustrated and in a quest for better performance, leaders apply more control only to see employees performing with even more mediocrity, and in some cases, active indifference. As this cycle continues all that’s really being accomplished is the creation of a have-to-go-to-work culture rather than a want-to-go-to-work culture.
However, if leaders choose to see and treat employees as people, they can get a better understanding of them. They can learn how to better accommodate their needs to maximize performance. They can learn about challenges and work with them to find solutions that may benefit not only the employee but also the business as a whole. When employees see that leaders care and have their best interest at heart, they’re inspired to use all of their potential to complete their work to the very best of their ability.
We all have the opportunity to choose the way we see others and making the choice to see them as people is sometimes difficult. Thus, this decision must become a habit if we hope to change our actions and behavior consistently. Here are three ways to help begin the seeing-people habit.
- Create a blank slate and don’t pass judgement: Give everyone the benefit of the doubt and don’t think of them with labels. Try to approach people with a blank slate in mind. Listen to understand, not to reply or find a reason why they are bad or any other label. Be kind to be kind, not to serve any controlling purpose.
- Remember you and others are alike at a fundamental level: Treat people as equals regardless of any position of authority because, at a fundamental level, we all have similar complex, messy issues, needs, wants, dreams, etc. Know that when people get angry, act up, or behave badly, they’re being human, just like you. Make your objective to make people feel comfortable and valued because you don’t see them as less than yourself.
- See their potential as a valuable contributor: Everyone has potential and much of it is untapped. As you listen, seek out that potential, that valuable contribution they have locked within. Ask questions and let them answer. See what you can learn, you might be surprised, they may have ideas that help solve, even in some small way, a large problem. Finally, ensure people leave you with a sense that they matter by thanking them for their thoughts no matter how big or small, remember, they contributed and more contribution leads to more success.
How are you interacting? How are you choosing to see people?