Maybe it’s not them. Maybe it’s you…


I, like many of us, learned early in life that we choose how someone appears to us.

I recall a friend I had during my primary school years, Fiona. I had initially disliked Fiona. Not for any legitimate reason, I am sure.

I first looked at Fiona and judged all she did as silly and stupid. No matter what she said, I would internally roll my eyes and think of her as foolish.

After a time, we became good friends. In that instant, everything she said and did was now interesting and funny. I refused to judge her actions harshly and would then only see the best in her.

Our perceptions strongly influence our experience of life. Our perceptions of other people influence our experience of those people.

As a supervisor or manager, part of our job is to look for areas that could be improved. To look out for problems before they happen.

However there is a trap. If you look for fault in your team, you will find it. If you have developed the perception in your mind that a particular team member is ‘slacking off’ I assure you that your mind will only see them when they are not busy. It is similar to when you are thinking about buying a particular type of car. You never noticed them on the road before, but now there is a focus on them, you see that style car everywhere. This is called the ‘Reticular Activating System’: we see primarily that on which we are focused.

Holding onto a negative perception will skew the reality of what is going on. The team member will not improve in your eyes until you shift your mindset about them and start looking for the good.

“What is behind your eyes holds more power than what is in front of them.”

Gary Zukav

What I have found to be an effective habit is to continually acknowledge team members when they are doing what is expected. “Great management of that tricky patient.”…”I am always impressed with how friendly you are on the phone.”…”Thanks for helping Sally in the steri-room when she was running late.” Remember, though, that you will only notice the good they do if you choose to focus on this aspect.

Acknowledging good behaviour is powerful for two reasons: One, it reiterates to the team member that they are performing to expectations, at least in certain areas, and they also feel good with being appreciated. Two, it ensures your mindset doesn’t slip into expecting, and seeing, only the negative.

If you are questioning the performance of any of your team members, it may be worth asking yourself, “Maybe it’s not them. Maybe it’s me…”