Lunch with my ex-boss the other day brought back memories of an old colleague with whom I could never really see eye to eye despite my best efforts. I thought she was extremely aggressive and overly sensitive. I remember every time I had to deal with her I would start anticipating her (violent in my imagination) response and that didn’t really help matters.
We only interacted once in a while but in coaching, there an interesting idea that by expecting someone to behave in a certain way, you cause them to behave in that way. So then…did I cause this colleague’s behaviour? Perhaps. But this whole thought thread got me thinking of other situations where I could definitely see how I contributed to a situation I didn’t want in the first place.
This was a few years back when I was managing a team for the first time. I expected high quality work from my team every time because one, I held myself up to high standards and two, I wanted to prove that my function was really great (read indispensible). But the thing is I didn’t trust my team, especially one member who was the same age as me, to deliver quality work! I wanted her to take charge, take the initiative, think outside the box…but really I did not believe that she actually would or even that she actually could!!
The result was that I would hesitate to delegate important work to her, and so she would feel mistrusted by me and bored with the mundane work that was assigned to her, which then resulted in her not putting in the best to that work, resulting in poorer quality of work than she was capable of, all of which further confirming my fears that she cannot deliver quality and cannot be trusted with important work!
The frustrating thing (now that I analyze it) is that I didn’t see the signs. She would keep asking me to give her more interesting and challenging things to do…she even kept hinting she would quit. But I kept justifying my actions by showing her poor performance, further demoralizing her. I know now that the results could have been incredibly different had I just recognized my beliefs about her.
I’m doing more of that now – and I realize it’s an ongoing process – recognizing where things are not working for me and exploring which of my beliefs are becoming self fulfilling prophecies.