Maintenance managers, supervisors and team leaders usually have a perception about their people and most of the time that perception is considered permanent. For example, ‘John’s lack of enthusiasm’, ‘Tom’s laziness’, ‘Kate’s intelligence’ and so on.
Sometimes a person that is shy and looked at as incompetent only needs an opportunity to stand out. I will tell you a story that changed my perspective about this matter.
I was working in aviation maintenance and there was a lady called Ms B (I won’t use her real name) that had worked for many years at one of the department’s offices. She was in charge of some simple paperwork. I don’t remember having talked to her more than three or four times. If you asked the people around, she was barely noticed and the engineers and managers didn’t think about her at the time of doing any other work than her simple assigned tasks.
During those days, the manager was a very smart man, one the most intelligent people I have met; although he didn’t stand out for his interpersonal skills. He had a way of making things happen, with great success I must say! He was extremely demanding and strict leaving little margin for suggestions and opinions.
The manager gave tasks to everyone at the department with very precise instructions and tight deadlines. He was always complaining about his secretary who struggled to do required tasks, mainly because she was used to having more autonomy when preparing documents and spreadsheets. Because of this, the manager started giving some documents to Ms B to prepare. Ms B did exactly as he asked from the beginning.
From that moment and on, Ms B became the manager’s right hand for word processing and data entry work. When he used some of the documents she had prepared in a meeting, he usually complimented Ms B on how well she was doing her job.
All the engineers at the company (myself included) were surprised by Ms B’s productivity and efficiency. We could never have imagined that she was able to work so efficiently.
One of the things that caught my attention was noticing how Ms B changed during that period. She looked more active, talked with more confidence and even straighten up her posture.
That was one of the most valuable leadership lessons I have had in my life. It’s important to avoid putting “labels” on our employees. Maybe if they don’t excel in their work as we would like it is because we are failing as leaders.
I constantly remind myself: “any person is potentially an excellent employee, he just need the proper incentive or maybe just an opportunity to be excellent”
How about you? Do you think that you are encouraging people to excel at their jobs? Maybe you have some employees with low performance, do you consider that as a permanent situation?
Thanks for reading!