Stop Putting People in Boxes

You don’t like ___________ (insert group/person/identity) because they _____________ (fill in what aggravates you).

You may find that you fill in the first blank with terms like Republicans, gays, Mexicans, women, Jews, rich people – or any of the words you routinely add as you make a comment about someone else. The second blank may include things like they aren’t capable, they are bad, they are selfish, they are hypocrites. It’s like a bad game of MadLibs.

Try it out. How many of these phrases would you create?  How many people aggravate you and, therefore, you’ve grouped them into a category and decided you don’t like them? Moreover, where do these feelings come from?

Most of the time, we label people to help us see how different we are from others. Because if we are different, there is room for hate, judgment and critique. We decide that we are better, wiser, greater or something more than others. We use it to advance ourselves at the expense of others. In most of these situations, and I see this in my coaching, there is no foundation for the hatred or judgment other than an assumption (you saw a person act this way in the past and now all people like this act like this) or an interpretation (someone told you something and you now believe it to be true).

More hatred has been spread around by assumptions and interpretations than by any other methods. We fill in the stories to justify our perspectives to keep the hate, bias or bigotry going.

When we put people in boxes, we limit who they are. We group them with some attribute that limits their humanity, their intrinsic greatness, their ability to deliver their special abilities to the world. We think that the world should look and act as we think it should because our version is right and theirs is wrong.

Labels shortchange others and it shortchanges our world. If you don’t see what is possible in others, it oftentimes affects their ability to see what’s possible in themselves. The immigrant who was well accomplished in his own country but is now limited to menial roles. The woman who is an exceptional manager and leader but who is passed over for promotions because she is a woman. The avoided conversations that lead to a poor relationship with a friend who votes in one political party because you don’t share those beliefs.

We don’t encourage the best in ourselves and from others when we use labels on people. Labels are demeaning, limiting and unproductive. Instead, be on the lookout for others’ abilities, talents, strengths and passions. See what’s right with them instead of what you think is wrong with them. It takes practice because our habits are to judge, critique and find fault.

But since these unproductive behaviors are learned, is it also possible that we could learn that it is both better and more effective to understand, support and love? Not only will you feel better in your days, but you will help others do the same. And from that place, they are more willing and able to bring their best to all they do. The result is we have better lives and a better world.

Take Action
Review the first sentence of this blog. Fill in the blanks with as many as make sense for you to help you see what labels and judgments you make. Don’t justify them; just see them. Then consider how you will intentionally work to eliminate them, and to notice how you are changed when you do. Remember that the world will continue to remind you to keep your biases and judgment, so you will have to be more aware, more intentional and stronger to get rid of them. And you will build something bigger and better when you learn to keep people out of boxes and learn to see others’ intrinsic abilities and potential.    

By Jay Forte

Consider reading See the Bigger Picture

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Your Employees: Help Them Grow or They Will Grow with Someone Else

Now is not the moment to be cavalier about making the time to help your employees develop greater skills. In a workplace that changes at breakneck speed, employees are looking to their workplaces to help them stay current, learn new things and get better.

The LinkedIn 2018 Workplace Learning Report shared that 94% of employees say that if their company invested more in career development, they would stay longer. It is all about the skills.

What time and resources do you make available for your employees to develop, grow, learn and expand what they know?

Before you answer, consider that development can take several forms in the workplace. Two of those include:

1. Formal education. Whether created by an organization’s learning and development department or through purchased programs, make new skill development available to all employees. Consider a required and elective skills approach. Define the required skills by job. Make electives available to any employee, regardless of position. Encourage those employees who want to constantly learn to select additional topics or skills to continue their development. Remember, not everyone learns the same way. Consider offering all formal education in a variety of learning methods, whether that’s via classroom, webinar, gaming, self-directed or narrated, among others. Take the time to learn what method works best for your team and look to provide your skill training in at least two different methods to encourage greater participation and learning.

2. On the job feedback development. Some of the best skill development happens in the moment. Providing mindful feedback, a process to tune in to both what works and doesn’t work with employee performance, is key to helping employees learn the most in any workplace moment. Though most managers provide “constructive criticism” when they see challenging performance, feedback is the reminder that on-the-job training is about both successful and unsuccessful performance. Don’t miss an opportunity to use a success as a teachable moment, focusing on how to do more of what works, and why it worked. Including this encourages a more responsive employee when there comes a time to share something that didn’t work and why. The lessons learned in these moments are timely, personal and encourage accountability. These lessons stick.

Employees say they want more development. And you want them to have it, as well, because it makes them more valuable as employees. This is a true win-win solution. Don’t be concerned that your employees will learn from you and leave. Instead, focus on developing them and building an employee-focused workplace culture. This encourages their performance and their retention.

Take Action
Identify the skills needed. Create materials to provide the skills in a variety of learning methods to encourage participation and learning. Then, train managers to think and act more as coaches to review employee performance, focusing on both what works and doesn’t work, with the intention of making each a teachable, on-the-job learning environment.

Commit to creating a clear and easy path to helping your employees develop, grow and get better.

By Jay Forte

Consider reading Do Your Jobs have a Value Statement?

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Building Mental Toughness

By Jay Forte

Have any of these happened to you?

  • You worked hard on a report or proposal, but your manager found many errors and omissions.
  • You tried something new and different when you planned the office holiday party, but everyone commented they liked the old approach better.
  • You went through eight interviews for an ideal job, but were not chosen.
  • Your teen screams that she hates you, calls you a terrible parent and slams the door to her room.

There are some events we move right past, mostly unaware of them because things are going in the way we expect or want them to go. But then there are the moments that are difficult, frustrating, aggravating, irritating, challenging and disappointing. This is when we feel life is tough. We feel like a failure.

Failure registers on our internal danger meter; we instinctively react because it’s how our brains are wired.  Our brains are programmed to keep us safe and failure – or the feeling of failure – makes us think we are in danger, real or perceived, physical or emotional.

And when we fail, we sometimes just want to quit or avoid the situation. We feel defeated, helpless, hopeless or just numb. When this happens, we can either give in to our failures or learn to see that failures are common and are learning events. Developing the mental toughness to succeed in and learn from failures is required to make it through life..

Here are several things to develop the mental toughness when you fail.

  1. Stop and notice the failure. You can’t change what you can’t notice, so tune in when you feel helpless, hopeless, defeated or a like failure. Call it for what it is – failure. This creates the ability to deal with it.
  2. Understand it. Why did this failure or situation happen? What didn’t work about what happened? What do you need to learn from it?
  3. Change your thinking about failure. We all have failures. This is how life teaches us things. Learn to see failure as part of the way you navigate your way through life. Work intentionally to be optimistic and positive, even in times of stress or failure.
  4. Create a plan to move forward. Failure is tough once. Suffering through the same failure over and over is painful. Creating a plan to learn from and not repeat the failure teaches you to not to fear failure, but to accept it and use it productively.

We all fail; it is truly part of being human. It also helps us learn to see where our edges are. If we always play it safe by avoiding failures, we’ll never see how amazing and remarkable we actually are. Failure shouldn’t be an enemy; it is a wise teacher. Treating it this way helps us use it to move the needle of our performance to deliver something great.

Take Action

Be [mentally] tough. Be resilient. Keep a journal of your failures. Take the time to understand them, document your recovery or improvement plan and learn from them. With great intention, you can develop improved resilience and mental toughness.


Consider reading I Don’t Know is Ok (right now)

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