We all do this, we take a look at someone and immediately they are placed in a box in our head. Smart, funny, boring, know it all, etc we do this often without thinking. We want people to fit into a mold we have in our head of what people should be like.
As leaders doing this allows us to quickly manage our teams. Joe, he’s a go getter and I can go to him with any complex task. Mary whines alot, so I am going to avoid giving her anything that requires too much work because she’ll just complain about it.
What if we challenged this way of thinking! Instead of seeing Mary as whiny, let’s think about her as maybe someone who is a perfectionist and doing something complicated may cause her anxiety. She feels that if the project isn’t perfect she’s failed so she complains instead? Or Joe while he is always out for the new project, he doesn’t really seem to like the day to day stuff because he get’s bored with it quicker.
Understanding why our team reacts the way they do when presented with certain ideas helps us understand those boxes they are in. AND can often help us allow them to step outside of the box.
When we put people in a box and then walk away from them we are doing not only them but ourselves a huge dis-service! Instead of challenging Mary we are allowing her to not experience anything new! We could ask her, why she seems nervous about taking on that new or difficult project, you both may be surprised about her answer. Her whining may not be something she is even aware of and by simply talking it out and understanding what she is dealing with will help you as the leader find a sweet spot for her to be!
As leaders we want to avoid putting people in boxes! If we think about people physically being in a box we can start to understand how this might be bad for the person.
Instead of putting them in a box why don’t we start to understand their behaviors and responses and when we find ourselves putting someone in a box, mentally picture them in that box. See them there, and know that they are worth so much more!!