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People or Objects?

I had some exciting news last week. The book I co-authored with my father Irwin reached number 8 on the Globe and Mail Business Books Bestseller List.  The book is Employees Not Doing What You Expect and has now been published in India, Latin America and Korea.

Now we return to our regularly scheduled LeaderFeeder…

Do you see people or objects? A colleague of mine Owen Thornton wrote an interesting piece in his Human Kindness Project blog *Authors Note- The article that was previously here was moved and is no longer available* on the fact that our view of the world is defined by our sedimentation (the accumulation of all our life experiences.) These experiences create biases that either interfere or enhance our life and business success.

It prompted me to reflect back on two books I had read a few months ago that can impact how leaders view their followers. We can view people as people or we can view them as objects.

On a personal level it reminded me to avoid taking my wife, children, clients and suppliers for granted.  More on that below.

In May, we’re offering the Front Line Leadership course in London, Ontario, Mississauga, Ontario and Chatham, Ontario.

Have a great week!

People or Objects?

There is an easier way and a harder way to get results as a leader. The easy way is where you have a team of people around you who want to help you achieve results, even in difficult circumstances. The hard way is to push and demand results from your team. Because they don’t want to see you succeed, they find a way of only doing the bare minimum to get you off their back.

So what makes employees want to help their boss succeed? Part of the answer lies in whether the boss treats them like people or like objects.

Thanks to a client of mine (Pam H.) who recommended I read two excellent books from the Arbinger Institute: Leadership and Self Deception and The Anatomy of Peace. The central theme in both books is whether you see others around you as people or as objects and how that view of others distorts reality.

This concept really hit home for me personally as I can sense that at times I can view my wife, children, friends and even clients as objects instead of people. I can be less sensitive and intuitive as I should be.

When we see others as objects, we dehumanize them. This often makes us feel superior in our own beliefs and behavior and become judgmental about the motives of others.

For example when you are driving and another driver cuts you off, you might think to yourself, “What a jerk!” In fact the other person might be perfectly nice 95% of the time and did something jerk-like 5% of the time. You might also occasionally do something inconsiderate towards someone and not really be a jerk.

In reality television the producer and editor can make someone look either intelligent or buffoon-like depending on which clips and sound bites they show and which clips they leave unseen and unheard. Think about having yourself video recorded 24/7 and how you could be made to look either brilliant or stupid depending on which clips others saw.

As a leader, when you see your employees as human beings, you can appreciate that they have strengths and weaknesses just like you. How you treat them will make a big difference in your success as a leader.

Reflection Questions

Do the people around you want to see you succeed or do they actively or passively resist your goals and ambitions? How could being more personable build stronger business and personal relationships?

Action Items

  • Reflect on your view of others. Chances are that you unconditionally accept some people while being more judgmental towards others.
  • Replace judgement with curiosity to discover more about your team.
  • Take time to get to know people and build relationships.
  • Become the type of leader who earns loyalty and respect instead of demanding it.

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