Burning the box of yesterday


It’s human nature to want to make sense of the world. We make our best attempts at clarifying what we don’t understand by categorizing and putting things into boxes. Mostly, that isn’t a bad thing to do as it helps us to comprehend what’s going on. However this can cause stagnation in organizations and teams as human potential isn’t recognized. When you’ve boxed people in it’s hard to notice what’s possible in them.

I see it often when I’m coaching someone. The most dedicated leaders will work hard to make changes to become a better person and leader. But sometimes those changes just aren’t noticed or they aren’t meeting up to the standards others (their boss in particular) had in mind. People change from day to day but if it isn’t recognized then talent can lie fallow, resulting in a lack of spirit within individuals and organizations.

You may have people in your organization that you’ve judged harshly. Unless you can challenge your judgment, people become locked in a box stuffed with your beliefs about them (whether they’re spoken out loud or not), making them unable to move and be seen as full of the potential they have.

Here is my challenge for you: to see each person you lead with new eyes every time you encounter them. This requires intentional focus on each and every person who supports the work of your organization. Metaphorically burn the box of yesterday by:

Setting an intention to forego the past judgments, assumptions and criticisms you’ve had. Consider that the people you’ve judged harshly may be vibrating with possibility that you have yet to uncover. Being intentional in how you see others as they are today and what they can become tomorrow might be the key to unlocking their potential. Ask yourself “How can I see each person I lead with fresh eyes today?”

Be observant and curious about how what you notice today. It’s possible that a new and different person is emerging. Transformation can move slowly or it can happen in the wink of an eye. As long as you’re willing to be observant and curious about emerging potential in those you lead, you may see new possibilities for them. Ask yourself “How can I set aside negative judgments of those I lead?” and “What am I noticing that is new and different in those I’ve judged harshly?”

Coach and challenge them with all of the encouragement you can muster to help them to step out of the box. They may lack self-confidence or believe what you – or others – have told them they are incapable of. They need you to believe in them and support them as they take new risks. Ask, “What can I do to support this person in becoming the best they can be tomorrow?”

When you burn the box you’ve put people in and you can be curious and supportive in their yearning to be more than they were yesterday, hidden potential can emerge.





I am a former executive in a Fortune 100 company. I have owned and operated an executive coaching firm since 2003 called Aspire Collaborative Services LLC. We partner with great leaders to help them become even greater at developing, improving, and sustaining relationships with the people who are essential to their success. This blog is for leaders and those who help them to be more intentional about relationships at work. My top personal values include respect for others, kindness, compassion, collaboration and gratitude. I work very hard at practicing my values daily and when I don’t succeed, I practice some more. I am married with two wonderful daughters and two spoiled pugs.