I have a friend – we’ll call him Fred – who is the COO of a $1 billion+ revenue consumer products company. Fred is a very seasoned, self-aware executive and authentic business leader. Thus, he surprised me the other day as we were out on a Sunday morning bike ride. We were discussing some of the struggles he was having with his CEO, an older more traditional “my way or the highway” autocrat, who we’ll call Al. To paraphrase Fred, “Al is driving me nuts. I watch how he pushes people around in meetings. In addition, he does not listen to his senior staff, including me, the very same people he chose because of our experience and track record. I have watched his behavior take place – and experienced it first-hand – for so long now that I just cannot imagine that Al could ever change.”
I was surprised by Fred’s language, even the tone of his voice, which was harsh, sarcastic and judgmental. His words, particularly the use of the word “never” placed a limit on Al’s potential for meaningful behavioral change. Fred’s perspective on Al was that Al had reached the limit of his growth and awareness as a manager and, more importantly, as a leader.
As leaders, we need to be mindful of our thoughts and the perspectives we unknowingly hold about our colleagues, direct reports, customers and clients and – as demonstrated by Fred – our bosses. The thoughts and perspectives we hold about our colleagues and the judgments we make constantly – these are all choices, although we do not often view them as such. Truly outstanding leaders CHOOSE to hold strong positive beliefs about their team members and they CHOOSE to believe that they will succeed at any endeavor. By holding negative and limiting beliefs about our co-workers and clients, we only succeed in holding them back.
So, as you proceed with your workday, I challenge you to take a stand for choosing to believe the best about your teammates and colleagues. Believe that they are all ultimately competent. Believe that they are winners. If you hear someone griping negatively about another’s capabilities, tell them you choose to think differently. Life has plenty of challenges in store for us, so do not make things worse by thinking and voicing negative and limiting opinions.