Separating behavior from the person

Many of us are quick to judge others based on an instance of unseemly behavior. As a leader, falling into the trap of quickly judging someone based on a single bad behavior isn’t the best way to assure you have an organization of people brimming with potential. It’s all too easy to paint a broad brush and declare individuals who behave badly as bad people.

Challenge yourself to look beyond an instance of bad behavior in the people you lead. Character and potential are not determined by one unfortunate action, but rather by the whole of the individual. Yes, poor behavior needs to be addressed. But we’re not talking about sociopaths here, rather the good people in your organization who sometimes behave badly and are capable of so much more.

Beware of letting someone’s poor behavior overrule your judgment, tipping it into a negative space. When you cling to judgement, you’ve shut them out of any possibility of being something more or better. You’ve also lost a chance on helping that person to grow and develop.

What if you were open to being surprised about the positive things that people who exhibited bad behavior are capable of by:

Looking for the good: Instead of focusing on the unacceptable behavior, what if you intentionally looked for the good in them and let them know what you see? When you stay present and intentional, you might find redeeming qualities you missed. My guess is that you’ll be pleasantly surprised to find some goodness.

Empathizing with them: We all make mistakes. What if you put yourself in their shoes and imagined how you might have behaved in their situation? You may find that you are just as human as they are, and fully capable to behaviors that are less than ideal. This understanding can help you to see something new and positive (and keep you humble!).

Supporting them: The vast majority of people mean well, want to improve, and are likely embarrassed by their bad behavior. They want to grow and develop. Their desire to become a better person may be very strong, but they need someone (like you perhaps?) to guide them. Offer support and guidance for their journey.

Leaders see the good, and help others to reach their highest potential. Behind unseemly behavior there might be a person just like you; someone who wants to get stronger and better.

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.