My way or the highway?

Last night I attended a seminar on Twice Exceptional (“2e”) Giftedness – where we discussed practical strategies to support children who are ‘bright but struggling’.

Aside from the personal value I gained from going along, I could see so many similarities between learning/working as a child and learning/working as an adult. As parents, teachers, mentors, colleagues, managers, bosses and leaders, it is all too easy for us to think that our way of working is the best way and that others should follow suit. I mean, why wouldn’t they? It’s clearly the best way to approach things. It works for us.

Last night was a brilliant reminder that we are all so very different. Whilst one person might work best at a desk in total quiet, another might be highly focused in a chaotic, noisy place, sitting in a beanbag with their laptop balanced on their knees. Some people might think sequentially and learn step by step, trial and error style whilst others might think big picture conceptually and learn through problem solving.

Add to this some of the invaluable insights I’ve gained from reading Adam Grant’s book “Originals”. One little gem is that research shows that whilst being planned and organised and doing things well in advance might logically seem like the best way to approach a task, procrastination has its place too, particularly in facilitating creativity.

It got me thinking…..

• If you’re a manager or leader of people, what assumptions are you making for others based on your own preferences?
• How is this shaping the work environment and how you match people to roles?
• How is it determining the way you delegate to, communicate with, train and mentor your staff?
• Importantly, what’s the impact on employee engagement, performance and retention?

The chances are you have valued employees that are underperforming just like children can underperform at school if the school doesn’t meet their needs. Their value to the organisation may be being masked. It’s not a child’s responsibility to wholly adapt to conform with the world around them and the same surely applies to adults at work. We all need to be self-aware, behaviourally flexible and crucially, respectful of others’ preferences and needs.

Good managers and leaders will be aware of how their own preferences shape their world and be able to see them as just that – preferences. Go on, hold the mirror up and notice what you see.