We were in the middle of hiring for a new position. I was leading a committee and we'd just finished our first interview. I came out to get the next candidate and sitting in the waiting area were the next three candidates. I did a quick take, walked back into the interview room, and thought "I know whom I am going to hire."
You might think that this is good, but it is very, very bad. First, I'm not the only one doing the hiring…remember, we are using a committee. Second, how in the world can I judge the capacity of someone in just 7 seconds? I can't and I shouldn't. Yet, this is where my mind went. I looked over the three candidates sitting there. I made a whole bunch of quick assumptions. Then, I started to look for evidence that supported my assumptions. Unfortunately, I'm not sure if we hired the right person for this position. Years later I wonder how many amazing candidates I turned away because of quick judgments.
What have been the effects of your quick judgments?
WE ALL JUDGE
Isn't it interesting how fast we judge people and on what little grounds? We meet someone for the first time and after a 3-minute conversation, we've decided on his political party, his grooming habits, his positivity for life, and his potential in helping us. It's a shame. Maybe he just finished a manual labor task, maybe he's having a bad day because an accident happened in his family, or maybe he wasn't that focused on the conversation because he has an important presentation coming up later in the day.
Who knows…but we seem to think that we do. If you doubt me, just start to pay attention to your thoughts about people you don't know throughout the day. Driving to work you pass a runner, what thoughts come to your head? You walk by a beggar, what thoughts come to your head? You see a new employee being briefed by your boss; what thoughts come to your head? Our judging machine is constantly running and it can't be shut off.
The benefit of this judging machine is that it's right often. Many of those quick judgments pan out to be just as they seem. Perhaps that person you met really does have a terrible attitude most of the time. Maybe the jogger does have a problem with portion control, or perhaps the beggar has made a lot of choices that have placed him in a bad situation. I'm not arguing with the fact that we judge because, honestly, we need this brain function: It helps us make good decisions, it helps us prioritize our time, and it helps us make sense of humanity. It's also nearly impossible to stop judging.
What I am arguing is for us to be extremely cautious with our judgments about people. Why? Because judgments lead to beliefs and beliefs drive our behaviors.
JUDGEMENTS LEAD TO BELIEFS, BELIEFS DRIVE BEHAVIORS
Whether you know it or not, when you walk into work, you've placed a number on everyone's head and treat everyone according to that number. Some people you think are amazing workers with tremendous potential. Others you see as lazy place-fillers. While you might be right with some, you might be wrong with others. Either way, what is guaranteed is that you'll treat everyone you work with based on your judgments you've made about them. Remember, beliefs drive behaviors.
It's like you have a scale system in your head and you rate people that you don't see much potential in as a 2 or a 3 and those with great potential as a 9 or a 10. You tend to be more positive around, tend to spend more time with, show more care, and delegate more to the 8, 9, and 10s. When you're around the 1, 2, and 3s you lose your positivity, you feel like the only things you can tell them are corrections, you don't take the time to show care, and you'd much rather not be around them at all. Based on your actions, the higher-judged employees will feel more of your care, while the lower will notice your lack of care. The 8, 9, and 10's will work harder, will grow faster, and will produce more because this is what you expect of them. The others, not so much. You might write them off as lazy and unmotivated, but it very well could be that your low judgment and lack of care are causing their laziness.
You see, the more that you believe in a person's potential, the more they will begin to express that potential and the more they can give to you. It really is that simple. See them with low potential, expect nearly nothing from them, and they will likely give you exactly what you'd predict. See them with high potential, expect great things from them, and almost always they will deliver. This means that the decision is yours: Do you want low-performing or high-performing employees? You get to decide based on how you see them and the care you show.
My guess is that you'd like to get the very best from each and every employee. If this is true, you have to start to change your mindset. You have to work on seeing each person you encounter as a 10. Sure, they may not be there yet, but they have the potential to be and they need you to believe in that potential.
Several years ago, I was working with a group of shipping executives on the concept of seeing everyone as a 10. During the session, one of them spoke up and disagreed with me. "Jason, I don't believe you. I've been working with Bob for over 20 years. I know him. I know that he is a 3 and he is never going to change." You might know someone like Bob. Maybe you've had the same experience. Perhaps, given your experience, it is too hard to imagine this person as a 10. If this is you then maybe the same tool that I taught this executive can help.
"Johnny, I get it. It might be too far of a jump to move from a 3 to a 10. So, let's ease up. What if instead of seeing him as a 3, you thought of him as a 4. In all your interactions with him, you look for evidence that he is a 4. Could you ease up on your judgments to do that?"
"I guess," Johnny replied. I knew he was sincere, but I also know a lot of leaders that make commitments with me and never follow through on them. So, you can imagine my surprise when 3 months later, I got an email from Johnny.
"Jason, you'd never believe it! Bob is actually a 5!"
If you really want to care for those that you serve, you should Ease Up on your judgments and start to look for evidence that you've ranked the person too low. 9 times out of 10 you'll find that evidence. It won't work every time, but it will work enough times that it will be worth the effort.
Let's face it, we as humans are never going to be able to stop judging. You are also never going to be 100% accurate in all of your judgments, especially about people. What you can control is how much you believe those judgments. Easing Up on the numbers you assign to people is within your power. When you do it, your beliefs about the person will change and your actions will follow. You will spend more time with them, be more apt to delegate to and empower them, and will seek more to hear their voice. This is what uncommon leaders do. They ease up on their beliefs and strive to see a 10 on everyone's head. By doing so, they get more from their employees.