Category Archives: Gifts and Strengths

Four Reasons Leaders Need To Avoid Labels

Labels were part of my upbringing. I say that because in my family each child was given a label to describe their abilities or personality. One of us was the baker and dramatic. One of us was pushy and a guitar player. One of us was an ice skater and not an academic. And crazy as it may seem, we lived up to those descriptions. They became us and we became them. It’s a very interesting phenomenon, that if we are told that we should behave or act in a certain way or that we are talented or not so capable, we tend to gravitate towards those depictions. We even create a narrative about who we are and what we can accomplish based on those labels.

Similarly in our companies and on our teams, we place labels on the people we work with. We decide early on who they are and what they are able to contribute. We continue to believe that the characteristics we attach to our co-workers and bosses are there for the long haul, never to be adjusted. This is how it is and we evaluate each of our strengths using those labels.

Leaders need to recognize that when they label the people they work with they are not empowering them to be their best or live up to their potential. Rather, the label becomes a self-limiting belief.

 Four reasons leaders need to avoid labels:

 1. LABELS ARE IMPRECISE WAYS OF DESCRIBING OTHERS

If we believe that stereotyping is never a helpful way to assess other people’s abilities, then labeling others falls into the same category. When we attach a particular attitude or ability to someone, we are using a “judgy” word to describe their capabilities rather than being specific about the value they may bring to a project or solution. Adjectives are often a waste of time and only add confusion to working with others.

2. LABELS BECOME SELF-FULFILLING PROPHESIES

We know that when children are “tracked” in how they will academically perform, they tend to stay exactly in that zone. If they are told they are only capable of achieving average grades they begin to believe it and just turn in average work. On the other hand, if they believe they have the potential to rise to outstanding work, they often will get there one way or another. The same is true with the people we work with. If they think we believe they can contribute in an outstanding way they often will.

  • Encourage each team member to try new things and take risks
  • Give credit generously
  • Stop yourself from using labels like “lazy”, “not capable” or “overwhelmed”

3. LABELS CREATE STIGMAS

When leaders use labels other colleagues and departments may start to believe the labels too. So if we say that a team member is not committed (another nutty adjective) others may start to believe that too. This is how we stigmatize people. STOP! Everyone is entitled to have a good and bad day or a more or less successful project. Work on developing the strengths in others and help team members overcome their blindspots.

4. LABELS BRING A TEAM AND ORGANIZATION DOWN

When teams get in the habit of labeling members they will tend to rely on the same people to always do the same work. The result will be less creative outcomes and less participation. Team members will not grow because they will not be encouraged to try projects outside of their “label”. An organization will never develop new leaders with new perspectives or capabilities unless we dump the practice of labeling.

How have labels impacted your leadership or team?

Seven Critical Leadership Rituals

Rituals are important to the survival of any organization as they contribute to the unique culture of a workplace. Rituals can mean honoring our co-workers’ birthdays with cards that everyone signs and a special birthday cake or making Wednesday “Bagel Day” for the firm. Some teams embrace the ritual of a monthly Happy Hour to connect with everyone in a less formal setting while other teams support a “Field Day” filled with outdoor activities to get to know one another better. Whatever the ritual, to feel part of our work worlds we honor those routines and behaviors.

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Rituals are also the key to i… Continue reading | 2 Comments

While Your Dream Job Is Still Evolving

Let’s face it; many of us are continually in search for that perfect job or career. We aren’t totally unhappy where we are now, but we also aren’t feeling completely fulfilled in our professional choices. We listen enviously as some of our colleagues and friends share their work stories with passion and excitement. We wonder if we will ever find that magical place. Some of these leaders are new to their careers while others have been in their jobs for many years. It doesn’t matter how long we have been in our jobs if something is missing or just doesn’t meet the expectations we might have.

These past few weeks I have heard many… Continue reading | 6 Comments

Five Truths About Leading Your Way

Although I have been a leadership trainer and consultant for many years, I never wanted to be a leadership blogger. It’s not that I don’t enjoy writing, but rather I was uncertain about adding a blog to my weekly commitments. I feared that if I was unable to keep my word to my readers that I would not be credible. Also, I wondered whether I could offer topics that appealed to leaders of all backgrounds and interests. But as I delved into leadership blogging something very fascinating began to happen. I realized that when I shared my stories of leading, other leaders reached out to share theirs with me. I didn’t have to model my blog… Continue reading | 10 Comments

An Unlikely Opportunity Can Be A Gift For Leaders

Most careers are not linear. They don’t begin at an ideal starting point and progress until they land at a dreamy ending. Chances are we will come to many crossroads in our careers that will force us to make an imperfect decision. We may not have all the facts or know how a new position will be viewed in our organizations. We may be moved to an unfamiliar department or asked to work with an undesirable boss or co-worker. It may be necessary to take on additional responsibilities that will totally topple our daily apple cart. Or we may just have to take on tasks that we feel are out of our job requirements and… Continue reading | 4 Comments