How do you change how you listen to someone when you’ve judged them? How do you turn a negative perception into a more positive one? You get what you expect.

A listening challenge

One of your employees dropped the ball. It’s happened before. They are explaining what happened, and you are struggling to listen. You may not even be struggling; you know what you know. You think it’s them; stuck in your mind is “this is a person who is more about excuses than results.”

Open the box

If you truly are a leader, you have every intention of helping others succeed. This isn’t possible if you remain certain that how you’ve judged another person to be is how that person is and always will be.

According to leadership development organization The Arbinger Institute in Leadership and Self-Deception (or <4min video), and psychologist and motivation expert Carol Dweck’s book, Mindset:

You cannot realize the best performance from any person when your expectations about their performance run counter to what “best” would be.

You must become aware that you have created a box that is your definition of a person, which then creates an energy and expectation about what they will say, what they might do, and how they will perform.

And then you must open that box. Open your mind to see them anew.

Create a more positive expectation

Now, create an expectation of how you want to see that person and their performance. In the example given earlier, you might Pivot from,this person brings more excuses than resultsto, “this person performs well with clear objectives and my trust in their ability.”

If you cannot create a positive expectation – if you do not trust yourself to change what you think you know – then you are not ready to lead. At least not this person. For the sake of the team, consider if it is this person or you who should be in a different role.

Hope is not enough

Hope is not a winning strategy in change. Hope will create the energy you need to shift the context around a person. If you want change, you must change your perception and create a positive expectation.

It takes Emotional Intelligence (EI) to stay open, listen deeply, and withhold judgment. It takes EI to create more positive expectations. You can do this.

Your best next step

For “Your 1 Best Next Step,” think of a specific relationship you’d like to improve and ask yourself these questions: What have you judged to be true? Do you know it is true or is this just your perception? What expectations come to your mind when you think of this person? Can you change your expectation?

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