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Things are Not Always as They Seem

Everyone has a story. Some of the stories are comedies, some are feel-goods, some are tragedies, and some are tales of redemption. For most people, it’s a bit of all of those at different times in their lives. Here’s the thing: as much as you may know someone, you can never know the full details and complexities of their story. Your employee can tell you about their life, work, schooling, family, or hobbies, and all of those events are told to you from their point of view and then filtered through your own perspective, values, and experiences.


The employee with the most positive, sunny disposition may have a spouse with debilitating depression. The colleague who always seems to be just a few minutes late could be working two jobs to put their kids through college. The demanding boss who gives you increasingly difficult projects might be preparing you for an incredible job opportunity that hasn’t been announced yet. You never know.


That said, you don’t need to know the whole background in order to be a good leader for someone or with someone. When a fellow manager acts out of character or one of your high performing team members starts to struggle, allow yourself to be curious about what really is going on. More than anything else, don’t make assumptions. When appropriate and in the right environment, ask questions to better understand the root of the change or the cause of the behavior. Listen to what is being said and what is not being said. At times, non-verbal communication speaks louder than words do, so pay as much attention to body language, facial expression, and tone of voice as you do to word choice. Respond with empathy and compassion, and seek to find a resolution.


Certainly, you’re not going to tolerate bad behavior or poor performance. You need to make smart decisions for your department and for your business. Still, there’s often more to the story, and your leadership requires you to read the whole book, and not just the blurb on the cover.

leatherbound books


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