Give Change a Chance
Even people you know well, people you may have worked with for years, can throw you a curveball. Maybe you’re both faced with an unfamiliar situation or the general circumstances change. You might be surprised by how the other person reacts (and by your own response).
This happened recently with my dog, Grace, and it reminded me of an important lesson: Don’t presume you know how things will always play out. Instead, be open to a new experience. It’s never too late to learn something new about another person.
Road Trip Revelation
Over the past few weeks, my husband and I have had the occasion to take Grace along on a few overnight trips. And to our surprise, even after all these years, we learned a something new about her.
It’s not that Grace has never been on a trip with us, but an overnight is kind of a big deal. It’s much more common for us to drive an hour or so to a favorite hiking trail. On those occasions, Grace is antsy (understatement!), with a fair amount of whining and shuffling around in the car.
She knows there’s a walk on the way and has an abundance of energy and excitement stored up. Nothing we’ve tried tends to settle her down…so we wait it out. After the walk, sometimes even for a few hours, she is tuckered out, and the ride home is very peaceful. Bliss for us in the quiet of the car!
But on these last two trips we took, (far longer than our normal excursions with her), we found ourselves in a new situation. The first weekend, we forged through long periods in the car with her whining, figuring it was inevitable.
However, twice when we had an impromptu stop and let her out for a quick moment to walk around, she settled right down when she got back in the car. So on the second weekend trip, when she started to whine, we stopped as soon as we could, got her out for a few minutes, and she was good to go. Just needed a break and then she could rest easily – at least for a while.
This reminded me of something that’s so easy to lose sight of during the daily goings on in our workplaces. No matter how well we think we know our teams, business leaders need to be open to new possibilities with their staff!
We Teach People How to Treat Us
Recently, I listened to a story from a frustrated manager about an employee who had not completed an important deadline on time. In the past, there had been occasional delays, but the employee had come through.
I probed a bit, and in hindsight, the manager realized she always needed to nudge and remind him in order to get the task done. It had become such a natural pattern that she didn’t even notice it was happening.
In this most recent situation, the manager had been out of the office for a week, plus super focused on another project herself. Left on his own, the employee dropped the ball, and because of her absence, no one created that needed structure in order to meet the deadline.
The manager quickly jumped to blaming the employee, but she was partly responsible because she had created an environment where she was a crutch. My recommendation to this manager was recognize that it was an ideal time to sit down with the employee and figure out a new plan, one that would give them both great accountability (the employee to take on a greater time-management role and the manager to step back).
Make Change a Habit
That manager’s situation reinforced for me the idea that leaders need to be open to the way someone on their team might react to a new scenario. Rather than presume someone will behave a certain way based on past experience, it’s important to look for potential shifts. Different circumstances create new challenges, as well as opportunities for deeper understanding and better outcomes.
The big takeaway: Before you start to play the blame game or grumble about someone’s old habits, give them an outlet to handle things differently. You might be surprised by the positive (and even relaxing!) results.
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