The other day I was out on the lake, canoeing. It was sunny so I was wearing dark sunglasses. As the sun started to go down, I was amazed at how beautiful and red the sunset was. So I stopped and took off my sunglasses to get a good look. But without my sunglasses, the sunset was still fantastic, but pink and purple – a completely different sunset. Curious, I pulled out another pair of sunglasses, with pale green lenses. Through these lenses, the sunset was hardly noticeable. Amazing how different the world appears, depending on how we look at it!
As managers of people, I believe the same is true for how those people we manage appear to us. Not their physical appearance, but their behavior. Our own perceptions, expectations and opinions color what we see. For example, if we have a high sense of urgency and a strong need for immediate results, we tend to see others with a more measured style as slowpokes or inefficient. Or worse – as lazy. By viewing others through our own preferred or habitual lenses, it is easy to miss seeing their actual strengths and their ability to contribute to our teams, our companies, our successes.
Instead of getting frustrated with that “slowpoke”, why not learn more about why he seems to take forever to get things done. Is he a perfectionist, poring over every detail multiple times and eliminating every possible error? This could make him a valuable resource for you, especially if your urgency causes you to overlook the minor yet crucial details. Sit down with this person and let him know how much you value his attention to detail, and let him know which specific areas need that attention, and which areas do not. Tell him that you would appreciate his input re those high-priority areas by a specific date. Remember, his lenses and perspective are different from yours, so asking for something “as soon as possible” won’t result in either of you meeting your goals.
By taking off your colored lenses and understanding your employees’ actual strengths, perspectives and motivations, it is much easier to assign them appropriate tasks, put them in the right roles, and build balanced and productive teams. And by understanding what the world looks like through their lenses, your job of managing them becomes remarkably easier! You quickly become the boss who “gets it”. People will be eager to work for you, because you have a reputation of actually understanding your employees and utilizing their strengths. And, as you attract the people whose strengths meet your actual needs, both productivity and employee engagement improve!
Given those potential rewards, why not try taking off your own default lenses and checking out the world through some others? You’ll enjoy the view!