If you understand that, in most cases, people generally do their best, you will become less judgemental of them and be able to lead them to greater achievements. If you want them to do better than their best, though, you have to show them what is better than what they think is best.
One of the most basic principles of human behaviour is that people generally do what they think is best in any given situation. You don’t believe it? I respect that. Let’s test the principle.
Why does an ambitious person work hard? Because they think that’s the best way to get the position or the salary they want. Why does a talented musician practise for hours a day? Because they think that is the best way to master their art. Pretty obvious isn’t that? But then what about the other side of the coin? What about people who do things that others frown on?
Why do criminals rob banks and steal from others? Well, basically, because they think that is the best way for them to get money. Why does a teenager or an adult bully someone else? Again, because they think that is the best way to get what they want. Why do some people just not apply themselves in their jobs? Because they think that is the best way to handle their careers.
And so we can go on … A lot but not all of human behaviour can be explained by this principle – that people do what they THINK is the best thing to do. What they think is the best thing to do, when looked at from other perspectives, may however NOT be the best thing or even the right thing or a wise thing to do, but they think it is.
How many times haven’t you seen someone doing something (that they think is the best thing to do) which you have good reason to believe is really not a good idea? Bear in mind that, in the same way that you’re seeing their blind spots, others are seeing your blind spots.
Before you look at the behaviour of others, apply this principle to your own behaviour to become more conscious of your blind spots. How many things are you doing which you might be thinking are the best thing to do but, when you stop and objectively examine them, you realise they haven’t brought you the result you’ve desired. For example, maybe you’ve got into the habit of shouting at your children or your staff because you have started to think that is the best way to handle them. But is it?
Do you really think you’re going to get the desired response? You may get superficial compliance simply because you have the power of the position – manager or parent – but that’s tokenism. You won’t get loyalty, commitment or sustainable results with this approach.
Start making a list of the situations in which you haven’t got the results you’ve desired and ask yourself honestly what it is you’ve been doing that’s brought you no results, then consider what you could change in order to get different results.
Next time you’re faced with an employee who is not delivering, ask yourself what s/he is doing or not doing that they think is the best thing to do or not do in the circumstances, then engage them in a conversation about this.
If you can choose another “best” for yourself and help those you are leading to see that their best may not be the best after all, you might start getting results you’re all looking for!
by Alan Hosking: Publisher of HR Future, South Africa’s human strategy magazine, and a Leadership Renewal Coach for senior executives.