Let me start by sharing with you an experiment that was conducted by University of Waterloo in Canada in 1999, under the supervision of Psychologist name “Claude Steele”. Doctor “Steele” has documented the phenomenon known as (Stereotype Threat) due to fear of bias. Consider the persistent stereotype that female students are not as strong as males in math and science. In one study, women who were reminded of their gender before taking a math test scored lower than equally qualified men who took the same test. The researchers found that women’s performances suffered because they feared confirming negative female stereotypes. However, when women were reassured that men and women are equally strong at math; the women matched the performances of the men.
Such experiences can damage human’s confidence. This woman in the study might have been any person, any gender, or any race. Instead of thinking about how to do your work, you just waste your brain’s power by thinking about the stereotype threat! Of course, in such situations your performance will drop dramatically, despite your educational degree, or how many years of experience you have. All these skills and assets will equal nothing in such negative environment.
When a human being is supported by positive words, the direct results are amazing. The person will see in every single challenge an opportunity instead of a problematic stereotype, they will be more resilient and effective as leaders. This requires a simple shift in mindset: (What we intentionally decide to focus on as we approach our work).
Think about it this way… as leaders, what exactly should we do every day? We should get more out of people than they knew they had to give, by taking them – voluntarily – out of their comfort zone to the next zone which I like to call the (Challenge Zone). By doing this shift, we are giving them the chance to use their skills to turn problems into opportunities. And this is only possible by using the right words. Once they accept this shift, it’s a matter of time to jump into the next zone which is the (Success Zone) that will be their new (Comfort Zone). Remember that (You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink).
The tool that we carry over our shoulders is very powerful. It’s more powerful than we can imagine. It can fix any problem in the world if it was utilized properly. Most of the leaders – unfortunately – underestimate the power of their subordinates’ brain. They don’t know what their everyday communication can do with their team.
Think of the following scenarios where my Manager called me for a sales review meeting:
First Scenario: Hussein, you failed to achieve your sales target for Q1 and Q2 this year, and it looks like you will fail again to achieve your target for Q3, and I am sure you are going to fail to achieve Q4. I am not sure how long I should accept this failure. You need to do something about this, or I will be forced to issue you a warning letter before the final termination.
Second Scenario: Hussein, it looks like you are going through some challenges to achieve your numbers. Please let me know how I can be of assistance to you? It’s still the beginning of Q3, and I am sure we can work together to rectify any shortage in sales number, and overcome any challenge to achieve your target.
Would you be able to highlight the difference between both scenarios? Exactly, it’s the words!
Leaders should have conversations… Not only give orders! They should be able to get the best out of subordinates by running multiple dialogs until everyone figures out different ideas of solving the problems. And this is the real magic that every leader must master, instead of closing all doors that lead to success.
I am sure you have heard such note form one of your Managers that you have worked with: (Don’t come to my office with the problem only, make sure to come with its resolution!), seriously?! If I know the resolution, then why should I come to you?! Why do I need you in the first place?!
I remember one of the great Managers I used to work with back home in Canada. I once approached him with a problem that I didn’t know how to fix. So, he said: (OK Hussein, it looks like we both don’t know the resolution, let’s think together how to deal with it!). And immediately his words boosted my brain’s cells to think about the resolution instead of wasting it’s power to think about how to justify why I don’t know the resolution of this problem.
Our words are magic; they make a big difference every day without noticing this power.
Today, I challenge every one of you to recognize the opportunity that is in your words, just imagine what would happen to our world if every leader on the planet took one step to improve his/her daily words, and make it positive enough to induce others’ brains. This is the only way to achieve real ongoing success, and there is no other way!