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Becky Robinson

I think you encapsulate well the need to know people well in order to encourage their potential. You present an memorable image: people are not truffles, and need light to grow. Thanks, too, for the list of related reading.

Mary Jo Asmus

Hi Steve,

Thank you for a powerful post.

I believe the hardest thing is for a manager to see their people clearly when they've had judgments (by themselves of others) heaped upon them. Judgments are fine and all well and good, except they are not always accurate. How do we get through the haziness of what we think we know, or what others have told us about a person in order to find the true character (and possible great potential) underneath?

As executive coaches, when we are brought in to work with a leader, it is our responsibility to approach and work with that person without judgment (at least in the beginning). Setting aside our mind chatter about what is or isn't true about that person, I believe, is the best way to see them fresh, as others (including themselves) don't. This allows us to see pure human potential and provide support for the best chance of success for that person to reach their goals. Its hard enough for us to do that!

I wonder if this might be a more difficult thing for internal managers to do with their employees. With all the complexities of culture, politics, pace, and change in the workplace - what chance do managers have to actually see their people clearly? It takes time, it takes skill, it takes compassion and empathy. Hard things to come by in the business world.

Steve Roesler

Mary Jo,

You raise a good point about all of the factors that get in the way for managers, not the least of which is the internal politics/moving-up-the-hierarchy thing. Not only does a clear picture require clarity about one's self; it requires a depth of character that won't allow the inaccurate or intentional sniping of others to color one's opinion of an employee.

It's not easy to manage well. . .

Steve Roesler

Hello, Becky,

Glad the truffles thing stuck as well as the additional reading.

Here's to a good week. . .

Lisa Gates

Steve, thanks so much for the link...and I particularly love Bob Burg's post about noticing. That word is a great word for managers to put in their coaching ditty bag. It goes hand in hand with Mary Jo's caution about clearing our judgments before we work with people.

What did you notice about that? (action, event)
What am I noticing here? (feelings, behavior)

So if we notice that we don't often notice well, we could first ask ourselves the noticing questions before we sit down to talk with people.

peter vajda

Hi Steve,

I appreciate your "business-unusual" approach here.

Some thoughts:

You write, "…They get released for issues of character, the inability to relate well with other people, or not being able to "close the gap." So, when one interviews a talent, perhaps one isn't interviewing a person, just "a talent," a role, a character actor, but perhaps not the "person" we're looking for.

How often, for one example, does a person-oriented "behavioral" interview take place ? (Tell me a time when you found yourself in conflict with (a boss, client, co-worker, etc.) How did the conflict develop? What were the differing perspectives? How did you contribute to the conflict/and the solution? (and we all do)?, How did you feel and why? etc. - one way to see folks for who they really are - real, authentic, honest, trustworthy, fake, blaming, narcissistic, etc. Yes, indeed, find someone to help you with this if you need support to hire "people."

In my experience, there are only two reasons managers shy away from coaching others: (1) they don't know how or (2) they're unwilling. So, look for root causes here and see what's true. There's a myriad of "excuses" for not coaching others, but very few reasons.
You say, "If you are a manager, be intentional about "seeing clearly. If it's a little difficult for you, get some help." I think this is huge.

Coming to work every day from a place of intentionality and mindfulness, where one is consciously engaged in one's life at work…not robotically, like an automaton, habitually, but with a sense of "freshness," with eyes wide open. It's not only about not building a house in the dark, it's also about insuring a firm foundation, i.e., "who am I" and "how am I" in this moment, and in this moment, and in this moment…

Lisa and Mary Jo make fine points, IMHO, about "noticing" and making clear judgments. For me that means being self-aware, focused, conscious, and mindful. And, consciously, what's getting in the way of my being clear and conscious? What makes me "off," and away from my self? What am I giving my attention to and why? What am I feeling in my body? How's my breathing, my heart rate, my emotions, my inner dialog, my posture, my face. What are these things telling me about me!

Being conscious, and thus less and less (unconsciously) reactive and robotic and "business-like," can support one to "know thyself" and that has to happen before any one else can "know me."

Craig Mostat

I like the suggestion about being "seen clearly". It is about being transparent or "being real." I prefer to work with people that I don't have to work at trying to figure them out.

As leaders, I believe that the defining difference lies in how we view our people. If the leader views his / her team as individuals with unique talents,strengths and dreams, capable of continual growth - the interest and investment will be high. In contrast, the leader that views people as machines is unlikely to spend any time or energy investing in them.

Ultimately, leaders who focus on developing the capacity of their team and not just getting things done, achieve the best results.

Dan Erwin

Actually, Steve, your comment is very business-like. You just used slightly different language. My clients usually say something to the effect of here's where I am, there's where I want to get to. Can you help me bridge the gap?

I'm uncomfortable with the degree of "victim" conversation that I read in the blog and the comments. I believe that rather than being a victim it's quite possible to lean on people without thinking of it as a burden. In addition, in this new world, people simply have to learn to manage up or they will be in difficulty. That includes managing their manager and developing networks of mentors. Admittedly, ignorance is the issue. . .but we can't stay ignorant forever.

Again, unlike Peter, I disagree completely that you have to know yourself before anyone else can know you. Better theory and practice indicate that to a high degree people tell us who we are. I know who I am and am not as a result of people telling me. Obviously I solicited some of that. But I also listen intently.

I deal with some of this in a blog: http://tinyurl.com/pnxdjj

Steve Roesler


If I don't steal some of your lines I'll be surprised.

Agreed: Bob's idea of "noticing" is a really useful verbal reminder.

Steve Roesler

Craig, Peter, and Dan,

I'm responding once because I think that Craig addressed simplicity of the issue. That is, taking the guesswork out of who you are so people don't have to tap dance around you until they get the song right.

Heck, my clients all say "Here's where I am and here's where I want to go."

My questions are these:

1. Do you know yourself well enough to figure out whether you can get there on your own and if not, who else and what else do you need?

2. Do the other people involved know you well enough to be able to "get it done" without having to figure you out?

As for other people telling me who I am, the best they can do is tell me how they experience me in a given situation. If I find that it's not a match for what I intended, I'll make some adjustments. But heck, I won't change who I am--I'll change "how" I am if the situation requires it in order to "get it done".

For me, the issue is simply this: If I don't act consistently as a result of my nature and character, then no one will be able to offer me any useful feedback. I've conducted 360s where the recipient had 10 different behavioral narratives on the same category from 10 different respondents. Why? He was playing people. No one actually knew who he was. And, as an unbelievable stroke of coincidental timing with this comment, I was just informed that he has been "let go".

The reason: his boss got tired of "trying to grab jello."

Wally Bock

Congratulations! This post was selected as one of the five best independent business blog posts of the week in my Three Star Leadership Midweek Review of the Business Blogs.


Wally Bock

David Noer


Great topic. I have found that most managers can be excellent coaches if - and it is a significant if - they have a basic level of competency in helping skills. The old "planning, organizing, controlling, & evaluating" functions of management that are taught in business schools tend to get in the way in a managerial coaching relationship. Listening, non-judgmental reflecting, and the ability to give non-defensive feedback is the currency of the realm in helping relationships. I have had good success with teaching managers these skills in a workshop setting. They usually get it and, in an era of layoffs, find that coaching layoff survivors pays big dividends.

Steve Roesler


The biz school skills certainly are needed. Problem is, they can't be executed effectively without the cooperation and performance of the people involved.

Your line about coaching layoff survivors really rings true. What's more valuable in tough times than having a boss who offering guidance and support?

Thanks for weighing in. . .

Tyres Dealer

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