My new client, Alice, owns two successful businesses and has no shortage of ideas for continued growth. Like any brilliant entrepreneur, Alice enjoys sharing her ideas and the possible strategies for paving the way to fruition. And, like most of us, Alice does not want her ideas picked apart or shot down before she's done expressing them, but that's exactly what happens--every time.
The person who Alice leans on the most for these interactions is her operations manager. However, this employee hardly allows a full thought out of her boss's mouth before spewing her skepticism and criticism. Yet, Alice continues to share her ideas with her, hoping that someday, something will change.
We see these patterns in all types of relationships: marriage, parental, sibling, and yes, bosses and employees. Why do these relationships sometimes become contentious? Because people have the tendency to expect certain responses and behaviors from others who absolutely cannot satisfy those expectations. In this example, Alice is a creative, vibrant, and strategic woman; she's a big thinker with a positive, can-do attitude. On the other hand, Alice's operations manager is detail-minded, skeptical, and motivated by reality and logic. These characteristics are exactly what makes her outstanding at her job, but she will never be the optimistic, supportive sounding board that Alice needs and wants.
Yet another client who runs a rapidly growing agency wants nothing more than to rely on a key employee to manage others in his expanding department. She hired this man three years ago because he is a nose-to-the-grindstone worker who can manage multiple tasks and work relentlessly until a project is complete. Again, perfect qualities for the job he was hired for, but not management material, as she would like him to be as the company grows. This employee values learning and growth, and he would like someone more skilled than he is to mentor him, but he himself is not, and never will be, an outstanding mentor or boss.
Behavior styles vary.
We all have dominant behavior, communication, and learning styles. Yes, we can learn to communicate better and adapt our behavior patterns under certain circumstances, but at the core, we are who we are and that's not likely to change.
I believe that our greatest strengths can also be our greatest weaknesses. For instance, someone who is loving and kind may also allow people to take advantage of them. They may have a habit of over-promising on commitments out of a need to please. Another, who is directive, decisive, innovative, and confident may also be controlling, impatient, and argumentative at times. Like anything else there are two ends of the spectrum--sometimes we achieve balance, sometimes not.
The employees in the aforementioned examples are excellent at what they do, perfectly cast for the role they are meant to play. A savvy leader will provide growth opportunities within the realm of their interests and skills, but not expect them to give something they are incapable of giving.
Why you are disappointed by others.
Who lets you down, time and time again? Who frustrates you the most? Who doesn't fulfill the needs and wants that you expect them to?
Most often, these people aren't deficient--they are simply not the right people to fulfill your specific desire. Again, I'm not barring the possibility of change, compromise, and growth, I am suggesting that you select the most appropriate person to fit your needs in any given assignment, activity, or conversation.
How can you identify the right people for whatever it is you need or want at the time? There are a few ways to figure it out:
Personality, strengths, and behavior assessments.
I usually recommend to my clients that they include an assessment tool in their on-boarding process. It not only helps you to find the right fit but as the company grows the assessment results will help you to determine the paths of your existing employees. You can introduce assessments within your organization at any time--and they're even fun and beneficial to do in personal relationships.
Understand the styles.
Once you learn the primary "types" you may gain the knowledge and expertise to do your own basic assessment of someone's behavior style on the spot. If you immediately understand another's style you can communicate with them in a way that resonates, therefore getting the results that you need (within their areas of strength).
Reflect upon past behaviors and responses.
Review past situations in which any given individual met your needs, and when they did not. Also, consider their strengths and perceived weaknesses: is this person a good listener and collaborator? Is she a detail-minded implementer or an innovative idea-generating machine? If you take the time to consider these points in the people close to you, you'll know who to go to under any given circumstances.
When we love and appreciate people for who they are the world suddenly becomes easier to navigate, and far more fun.