Do you ever find yourself despairing about other people’s behaviour? Have you ever stopped to think you may be the cause?
I was taking a stroll through the woods recently with my dog when I came across a woman calling anxiously for her missing four-legged friend. I stopped to ask if all was OK and she told me her dog had been gone a few minutes and had a habit of running away and refusing to return on her call. The ‘refusenik’ in question was, in fact, a young Schnauzer which, suddenly appearing through the trees behind us, slowly, and very cautiously, made its way back towards her. As the dog drew closer, the woman embarked upon a tirade of abuse towards her canine friend, chastising and reprimanding and finally grabbing it by its collar and putting it on a lead. She then continued to explain to me that this was her third Schnauzer and that they had all behaved in the same way. Her conclusion was that the problem was ‘in the nature of the breed’.
As I continued on my way, I could not help but wonder at this woman’s lack of awareness of her own role in the dog’s behaviour and, no doubt, that of all its predecessors. If I were one of her long-line of supposedly genetically-mutant Schnauzer I mused, I would learn very quickly that coming back did not please my mistress and that I should probably stay away as long as possible. In fact, I would quickly realise that she was so displeased about my return that she felt compelled to punish me with a roasting and find myself no longer able to explore and sniff at leisure.
The lesson of the day, reinforced the next day and the day after that, is ‘Coming back is bad behaviour’!
Sadly, this is a human failing – to be unaware of the role our behaviour is playing in driving the behaviour of others. We often bring about the very thing we don’t want to see by failing to consider how others may interpret our ways of working and how we are when we are with them. We focus too much on our intention and too little on our impact.
For example, do you ask your people for new ideas and then critique those ideas until both they and their ideas have lost the will to breath?
Or do you insist everyone takes their work/home balance more seriously and then send them emails on Sunday evenings?
Or do you ask people what they feel about something and then proceed to tell them why they shouldn’t feel that way?
As a manager or a leader, we cannot take the time to check our every move and every word, but we can examine any typical and unwanted behaviour we witness around us in our teams and organisations and consider what role we may be playing in inadvertently encouraging it.
Your people may not be Schnauzers but I can assure you they will learn just as fast!
Pic of ‘Bad Dog’ Jordy courtesy of Jonathan Oakley