I recently met with a newly appointed manager who had contacted me to discuss concerns he had with several direct reports.
Naturally, having sat through more than 6 billion such meetings, I assumed he would arrive and promptly explain his frustration with his employees by using the usual judgements to describe their errant performance.
He would tell me that they “don’t listen,” they are “incompetent, irresponsible and lazy” and that they suffered from “poor attitudes.” And could I please help him “fix” them?
Instead, I was treated to a refreshingly rare behavioural description of each of their questionable performances, along with behaviour specific examples.
Boy, what a treat to be presented with objective and useful information sans the usual accompanying labels we have been discussing these past few weeks.
I wonder if we will ever learn that the judgements we place on others have huge impacts on us as they tend to place narrow boundaries around our own behaviour in the presence of those we have judged in order that we may find evidence to further validate the accuracy of our judgements.
And in placing so much of our focus on finding that evidence, we develop blind spots that prevent us from even considering possibilities outside of those judgements.
We even have a name for this: cognitive dissonance, which is that strange, uncomfortable, tense feeling we get when we try and hold two conflicting thoughts in our minds at the same time.
You know, like when we fake sincerity as we’re try to say nice things about our political opponents.
Or our ex wives/husbands/mothers-in-law et al.
Or our reluctance to accept the possibility that OJ didn’t do it.
So in order to protect the correctness of our decisions and action we justify.
Which is why judging or labelling is so very helpful.
It makes the justification process go smoothly.
Because it prepares us for what to look for. Which, of course, we always find.
But, back to our manager and his employee concerns.
He did a masterful job of articulating the precise behaviours that were causing concern.
Not a word of judgement passed his lips.
And, when asked, he provided a detailed description of what the expected behaviours needed to be.
We discussed the possible causes of the poor performance and he outlined his plan to meet with each of these folks, point out to them the behaviours they were displaying and the results those behaviours were producing, explain the desired behaviours and obtain agreement that those would delivered henceforth.
A terrific model in the process of managing behaviours, and therefore results, in the workplace.
All made possible by the absence of limiting negative judgements which would have added several layers of stress to his ability to effectively transform the behaviours of his employees.
There is a point to all of this.
When we judge others we place ourselves in the unenviable position of needing to validate that judgement – to be right.
And thus we reduce the options available to ourselves in how best to interact with those people.
It’s as if we were staring at a beautiful painting through a drinking straw.
We would only see a tiny piece of it.
Even though it’s right in front of us.
And our opinion of it would be formed by the tiny section we can see.
And to us, that opinion would represent our judgement of the entire painting.
And the only option available to us to form a different belief would be to put down the straw and take in the magnificence of the whole piece.
Do you sincerely want to learn to appreciate the beauty of the world out there?
Put down that straw.
Till we read again.
P.S. I am in a serious race with a despicable colleague to see who can attract the most new subscribers to our blogs by the end of October. I won’t tell you about her blog – it is so pathetic, puerile and infantile that I’d be embarrassed if you even knew of my connection to her. This truly is an epic battle of good vs evil and I (good) must win this contest – there is a cheeseburger at stake – so please ask or beg your friends to subscribe to this blog ASAP. I wouldn’t bother you with this if it wasn’t so vitally important.