Expectations in a Box

Think of yourself at work and how it feels right now.

If you imagine you’re in a box at work, what would that box be like?

Are you in a roomy box with space to spread yourself out and change position?

Are you cramped in a box that you feel you could burst out of any minute?

Do you remember once feeling like you could burst out and now you feel like you’ve shrunk to fit inside?

What about your team?  What are their boxes like?

“The way you see people is the way you treat them, and the way you treat them is what they become.”

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe


Our brains are constantly scanning for danger, these days danger isn’t usually an animal that wants to eat us, it’s a threat to our self esteem, or our ego.  We’re raised in a world where being ‘right’ and ‘good’ are the things we’re meant to strive for*.  That’s what gets us praise, good school grades, a good job, a pay rise……stuff that boosts our self esteem and positively strokes our ego.  Interactions that make us feel like this are helpful to calm our fearful brain down which improves our thinking, helps us feel more abundant and generous towards ourselves and others, helps us become more creative by connecting dots.  This then leads to a growth in confidence and the desire to try more things, to push the boundaries, to come up with new ideas.  To coin the lyricist R Kelly, we believe we can fly!

So in contrast to this, interactions that don’t boost our self-esteem and which knock our ego signal a threat situation and our brain and therefore body invoke our stress response to keep us alive.  The result is primitive, narrowed and superficial thinking. Our sense of humour and creativity are lost.  We move to a defensive, protective position where we don’t trust others and where we operate in a safe zone.  Our confidence drops, as does our performance.

In real life, we don’t often have work experiences that are explicitly threatening (although of course they do exist) what is more common though is a drip-feed effect.  Like water dripping onto a stone and gradually creating a hole or well.  The person dripping the water makes the occasional comment here, gives us the odd look there, steps across our opportunity to show what we can do, (unconsciously) sets us up for a fall to prove they’re right, tells us their answer rather than asking our opinion.  And equally they can do the opposite where their drip, drip, drip of mineral-filled water builds us up like a stalagmite of brilliance.

No matter how micro the facial movements, the inflection in tone of voice, the underlying message in the words, our brain will pick up on the subtext of either ‘you’re great or ‘you’re rubbish’ and over time will helpfully or unhelpfully influence how we feel and how we perform.

This is the stuff that means we feel like we’re capable of bursting out of our box, or makes us shrink to fit the expectations around us.

I’m sure you can think of people who have had a positive or negative impact on you and how you subsequently performed.

And I’m sure you will have a positive or negative impact on people around you.

So take this chance to think about who you think is incapable.  If you want them to grow rather than shrink, what could you do to change your perception of them?  How could you take one step to let them show you how you can believe in them? What could you think about their abilities instead that would change how you treat them?  How could you remind yourself to spot when they do something ‘right’ or ‘good’?

“The way you see people is the way you treat them, and the way you treat them is what they become.”

Be the leader who enables those around them to burst out of their boxes!

* I’m aware that many people are also raised with negative ego stroking and this post may not apply to them.

[Photo credit – http://chadstutzman.com/?p=1311]

This is me……..www.wildfigsolutions.co.uk

WFS Tree

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