I’d like everyone else to change – be more polite, productive, sensitive, helpful, positive, and responsible. That’s reasonable, because I have mastered of all of those behaviours… right? Sure.
I can’t tell you how often during coaching sessions I hear complaints about “others” and frequently I wonder if the complainer has any idea how much they are demonstrating the very behaviour they are railing against?
- “I can’t stand it when someone talks about somebody else behind their back.”
- “I don’t get it. Others are so negative!”
- I hate it when people show up to meetings unprepared.”
We usually have no idea we’re doing it. It goes against our perception of ourselves. It’s not malicious or mean-spirited as much as it is a defence mechanism. To admit we need to change creates cognitive dissonance. Margaret Heffernan calls this Willful Blindness.
During these sessions I will ask, “Do you want feedback based on what I see, or do you want me to sugar-coat it?” No one says they want you to tell them white lies, but many would prefer if I agreed with them, that their employees need fixing, they’ve hired poor workers and isn’t the world just awful!
However, I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t challenge the client to look in the mirror and see how often they create their own misery. Who hired those poor workers? Who oriented them to the company? Who communicated (or didn’t) the expectations and rules for being a productive team member? Who didn’t coach and mentor them toward success? Who didn’t speak directly to the problem employee when they stepped out of line? Who didn’t document the infractions and discuss them in their (non-existent) reviews? Who didn’t develop, communicate and enforce company policies and procedures?
Change isn’t easy, but it starts with you. It starts with me. Ask for and be open to honest feedback. Reward those brave enough to give it to you. Ask:
- What do I do that gets in your way of being your best self?
- What could I do to improve the atmosphere, culture, performance, and success of the organization?
- What should I start doing differently in order to lead positive change?
As company owners, it’s easy for us to believe that we are right, they are wrong and life would be sweeter if they changed. While there may be a grain of truth in such thinking, it doesn’t work. It’s not helpful. It stifles rather than encourages the kind of changes you want. Change starts with you and ripples outward.
 For a more formal and accurate review of what others think, consider a 360-degree survey that provides a detailed report that is measurable and offers suggestions for change. Our Results-Centred 360 is the perfect tool for assessing the differences between a leader’s perceptions and those of their manager, their peers and their direct reports.