You have great ideas. You know how to get things done. You’ve moved up in your career and have the experience, know-how, and skills that people admire. However, when you share your knowledge, expertise, and vision, it seems like either no one is either interested, follows through, or gets it at all. You constantly feel frustrated and wonder what’s wrong with people. Why aren’t they on board? Why don’t they get it? Why does it seem like you’re doing all the heavy lifting and dragging everyone else along?

Possible problem? Not everyone is like you.

Recognizing our differences

Many organizations talk about diversity, but the talk often only literally goes skin deep (more about this in a future post). Diversity, however, is about more than just physical attributes. It also includes incorporating diversity of thought, style, opinion, perspective, and experience. For all the ways we are similar, each of us is unique. Consider some examples:

  • You might be able to attend a training and immediately apply something you learned with your team; others might learn better by reading books, having a mentor, or through trial and error
  • You might want to constantly improve; others might be content getting a paycheck
  • You might value reaching goals; others might value building relationships, being creative, or having fun
  • You might like to take the ball and run with it; others might prefer to vet plans, find flaws, and take time to formulate a strategy

We all have different styles, needs, and values. However, sometimes leaders don’t recognize this and assume the worst: People are lazy. People don’t care. People aren’t motivated. And so on.

Recognize what people need and adapt

If you find yourself having these kinds of judgements, consider that others aren’t like you and might need something different. They might not trust you. You might be moving too fast. They might doubt themselves and need more encouragement. They might not agree with or see the value in what you want. Your plan might be too confusing, vague, or too much work for the result. They might want something different entirely.

Your job is to stop thinking that others just need to get with the program and find out why they’re not with the program. While it may seem easier to threaten or force them to comply, in the long run you’ll only do everyone a disservice. Instead of making assumptions, ask questions like:

  • “What tools, skills, knowledge, or awareness might people need to get on board?”
  • “What might be keeping people from buying in to my/the organization’s plans, ideas, or goals?”
  • “What might other people want, and how can I support them?”

Don’t just ask – listen

Of course, answering these questions is just a start. Although as a leader there are many ways to engage people to support your ideas (which will also be covered in future posts), another side of leadership is considering that other people might know better than you and trust their wisdom as well. Regardless, taking time to pause and reflect when things aren’t going the way you want will give you greater insight about how to move forward.