No Absolutes

IMG_1289Many of us think in terms of absolutes – despite the reality around us that demonstrates how this life is filled with nuances and subtleties.

I grew up in Southern California near the beaches of Orange County. I was a surfer who used to catch waves for a couple of hours before heading to class in high school.

I had no experience with real weather until moving to Colorado nearly ten years ago.

We experience “adventuresome mountain living” at 8400 feet above sea level. Snow, sleet, ice, etc. are a part of daily life for at least six months out of the year. To thrive here, you’d better embrace the reality.

The calendar shows we’re almost to April, yet we’ve still got snow on the ground in shady areas. Our pond is still frozen despite the 40-degree temperatures. On the north side of our house, the walkway is covered in ice – which totally confuses my “absolutes” brain.

How can ice exist when the outside temperature is well above freezing? Shouldn’t the ice and snow melt away once the temps hit 33 degrees?

The environment “is what it is!” The ground isn’t above 32 degrees. Overnight temperatures are still in the teens. Until the earth below the surface heats up, we’ll still have ice and snow.

Leaders think in absolutes all the time – despite the reality around them that demonstrates how their work environment is filled with nuances and subtleties.

Maybe the leader announces a new policy or new practices, yet teams continue to behave as if nothing has changed. The leader thinks, “What’s the matter with them? I told them what the new policies are!”

Maybe the leader asks teams to be self-directed, managing their day-to-day efforts independently to meet project deadlines. But if the team has never experienced self-directed teaming, they don’t know what to do. So, they sit, waiting to be told. The leader thinks, “What’s the matter with them? Why don’t they just get to it?”

Maybe the leader gives the “salesperson of the year” award to a player who exceeds their quota by 100% but who uses shady practices to reach those sales numbers. He or she might poach business from fellow sales team members. He or she might over-promise to get the sale, and frustrate the customer weeks later when the company can’t deliver on those grand promises.

Peers complain about who won the award. The leader thinks, “What’s the matter with them? He sold more than anyone else – he deserves the award!”

There are rarely pure absolutes in our work environments. Leaders can’t just pay attention to the output – that’s hanging out on the edges of what’s really happening. #GreatBosses engage in the midst of the processes and work efforts so they understand the nuances and subtleties. Those leaders can then reinforce desirable nuances and quash undesirable nuances, day in and day out.

Over time, the right nuances lead to the right behaviors. Those right behaviors lead to promises delivered and WOW’ed customers . . . which is absolutely a desirable work environment.

What do you think? What absolute beliefs get in the way of your effective day-to-day contributions? How well do your leaders engage in the midst of processes and efforts to create #WorkplaceInspirationShare your thoughts about this post/podcast in the comments section below.

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