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Why Do People in my Team Behave The Way they do ...?




There are many reasons why we behave in certain ways. Here is one that we tend to forget because it is so unconscious but at the same time so present : building and maintaining how we want others to perceive us.... And that gets in the way of us being effective in whatever we are trying to achieve : being a good manager, a good colleague, a good partner, a good parent... This is obviously particularly relevant in organisations because of the constant contact with each others. Luckily we can detect that, adjust if necessary, transform, then let go.

Each of us chooses the way we would like to be perceived by others. Almost like a role that we pick for us and that we unconsciously play. Our social image in a way. Some also call it the "ego". And we actually spend a significant amount of energy maintaining it. Nothing to do with some sort of new superficial concern brought on by the online social media. This is much more fundamental than that : it is an essential aspect of human psychology. And that image protects a more authentic, often more vulnerable, true self.


This is particularly relevant in organisations because we are in constant contact with each others and because all the energy that we spend checking - and attempting to correct - how others perceive us, is energy that is not available for what we are set to do....


When what we get back from others does not match what we are trying to project, unconsciously we live this as if our self is under direct threat. We get into stress, and a very primitive and instinctive mechanism kicks in that makes us think, live emotions and behave in a  one of our favourite survival strategies : fleeing, fighting our freezing... we are disconnecting from our evolved aptitudes and either try to "over-impose" how we want others to perceive us, or more subtly we might tend to close down in our work or with  colleagues and become rigid, controlling, stuck on views, judgemental, over-simplifying, risk advert... nothing to do with the actual task at hand of course....


As leaders, being attentive to the social image our team members are trying to project and creating the space for them to be recognized is important. it actually creates a win-win : we address a fundamental psychological need of our teammates and as we do that, we free up energy and create a climate for higher performance in the team.


Ok, but what do we do when there is an obvious, significant gap between what a team member is trying to project and his real capabilities ? This is where feedback is critically important. As leaders and managers, it is a significant part of our role to help team members address self-awareness gaps where blind spots might exist.


All this holds true for us as leaders and managers of course.... with all the impact this might have on our teams....


The ultimate solution obviously is to let go of the social image all together, and be our true, authentic self in confidence in all circumstances.  Mindfulness practices and mindsets constitutes a great way to get there, individually and organisationally.


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