I hate the gym. I love it too.
I hate my PT. But I love him too.
Every time he throws a bigger squat weight or a longer plank time at me, I quietly panic inside. Telling myself I can’t or I’m not ready. Convinced he’s got me confused with someone who can.
Attempting to buy myself some time so I can analyse and perfectionise, I push back with…
“Not a chance!” or
“I’ve never done this!” or
“I can’t do that!”
As soon as I speak those words I notice their flavour – self-critical, self-doubtful, automatically resistant. How quickly I’m willing to throw myself under the bus when invited into unfamiliar, uncomfortable territory.
But he doesn’t buy my disbelief, doubt or small-mindedness. He just looks at me with an unwavering expectation of success.
It’s why I love the gym, and why I hate it too.
It takes me to my edge, to places I don’t think I can go, and would never go without someone who sees me, in a way my old limiting beliefs would never let me see myself.
It’s the perfect analogy for how leaders need to see their people.
People will grow beyond their ‘No’ if they feel safe and supported and trust you have their back.
Many leaders share they have at least one person in their team who, from their perspective, resists additional responsibility, turns down learning opportunities or avoids staying back to help out.
Their team member may say things like “I’m just happy doing my job” or “I’m not interested in going for a higher role”, or “this is how we’ve always done it.” All of these things may be true, but they’re only half the story.
A mentor of mine once shared “you’re either green and growing or ripe and rotting.” And no-one wants to rot. We all want to be our best, in fact, it’s our innate nature to grow, evolve and expand. But some of us tolerate rotting because we’ve taken risks and been burned before, we don’t feel heard or understood, or we’re just tired of giving so much and not feeling appreciated.
For many, the workplace is an environment to survive, as opposed to a place we feel safe and supported to thrive.
In survival, our focus is limited to protection, our priority is safety and our analysis of people, situations and ourselves is in overdrive. We judge others harshly and make no room to do anything more than we already know how to do.
In this state we will only go as far as our thoughts, feelings and beliefs allow us. If our belief is that we must protect ourselves then it’s not the time for stretching beyond our comfort zone. In survival state, we can occur as selfish or self-absorbed and it seems from the outside looking in that we prioritise ourselves over the team.
Simon Sinek, author, organisational consultant and best known for his work ‘Start With Why’, shares that when we don’t feel safe in our environment, we will invest time and energy in creating a feeling of safety for ourselves. It’s unproductive, ineffective and can be damaging to culture.
A leader who sees beyond a team member’s push back, selfishness or self-doubt, and invests time and care in building trust can connect with something much more powerful in them. In the process help them grow beyond where they think they can. It unlocks their full potential.
I call it ‘speaking into their greatness’. Relating to people as more than their excuses, justifications and reasons why they can’t or don’t want to. And engaging them in a bigger version of themselves.
It takes trust, care, genuine interest and awareness to inspire someone beyond their limiting beliefs. A strong conviction, presence, compassion and an unwavering stand for who they really are will inspire someone to dig deeper.
It’s what leadership is about.
– Believing in someone more than they believe in themselves.
– Seeing others beyond who they know themselves to be.
– Standing for something greater in someone than where their self-doubt can take them.
Without a leader’s belief, it’s likely a person in survival will remain stuck in their familiar reasons why the status quo is preferable. It may be comfortable for their fear but it’s soul destroying for their confidence and self-belief.
To cause a shift and be the catalyst for their team member being their best self, a leader first needs to let go of their own reactions and judgements and see that person as bigger than their behaviour.
A principle in Restorative Practices methodology distinguishes a person’s behaviour as separate from the person. Simply, it means that although the behaviour or attitude of a person in this moment is not ok, the person is innately good. They are seen as much more than their behaviour.
Applying this distinction in leadership, a leader can see beyond their team member’s perceived negative attitude or behaviour and connect with something more in them.
If someone in your team is not interested in development, is resisting change or avoiding additional responsibility then there is work for you to do in building their trust.
My coaching to leaders to engage and empower ‘resistant’ team members is simple but extremely powerful and immediately impactful:
1. Be aware of your ‘state’ – who are you being about them? Judgemental or curious? Choose curious!
2. Identify the elephant in the room. Be honest, share your desire for them to be great, your belief in their ability and your frustrations at not being able to accomplish this.
3. Let go of trying to convince them to see things your way and ask for their help in understanding what supports them.
4. Ask new and open questions, listen and be present.
When a leader is willing to shift their own perceptions and believe in someone beyond their resistance, it’s exciting what becomes possible.
As my PT knows, once I’ve lifted the heavier weight, the weight I really believed I couldn’t lift, my confidence soars, my passion for more explodes and I can’t wait to do it again.
The desire in me to do more in that moment is unlocked because he believes in me beyond my fears and excuses. And because I trust him.
When a leader believes in their people beyond what’s seen on the outside and consistently speaks into their innate greatness, the resistance softens, the ‘No’ alchemises into a ‘Yes’ and people rise beyond their self-imposed limitations to meet their leader’s belief.