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Practice Management > Building Your Business

You Can't Change the People You Work With, So Do This Instead

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The most common misconception in human capital management is that with enough effort and training, anyone can be changed. A widely held belief does not make it true, though.

It doesn’t matter how good of a manager or a leader you are, you cannot change people.

But don’t be discouraged. All hope is not lost. You still can influence them, help them — and encourage them to change. The decision to change, though, has to be made of their own accord.

What do you do with the knowledge that you can’t force anyone on your team to change? You might have an employee right now who is underperforming and you keep saying to yourself, “If I could change this one thing about them, they would excel.”

If you’re a leader who’s interested in helping people succeed, the key to changing behavior is to interact with employees in ways that will have a positive effect.

As a good manager or good leader, your employees need to do the things that must get done. The key to influencing them is acceptance.

3 Ways To Prompt a Decision to Change

Acceptance doesn’t mean accepting poor work or putting up with an employee who disrupts a positive culture. It does mean accepting a person’s unique personality, understanding how they are motivated and working with them from that starting place.

Once you start with this mindset, you can learn to relate to your employees to help create a change. Here’s how:

1. You can only see who a person truly is when you first accept them for who they are.

Having an ideal of a person is not seeing or accepting them; you are simply seeing what you want.

Instead, commit to seeing their unique skills, strengths, and take note of what they are capable of doing without turning it into a formal assessment.

No change happens until you can see a person clearly.

2. Spend time with them.

We are living in a time when most employees are working remotely. A manager can no longer boss a team around as they did before when everyone was together in an office.

Remote work has proven that employees can be accountable and get work done without having someone stand over their shoulder.

If you want to influence someone to make a change, spend time talking with them about why they do what they do, and talk about your process for work versus their process.

Once you can see someone clearly and then understand their motivation, you have the power to help this person make the right decisions.

3. Let it be or let it go.

When you’ve reached an accepting place within your culture, you’re better able to see that when someone just can’t get the job done, it may be a result of a personality or values conflict and not a talent or skill issue.

When you identify a values conflict, you can sit down together to determine if you can get the relationship back on track (let it be) or if the time has come to leave a firm, remove an employee (let it go).

Remote Work Has Created a New Cultures

Employees no longer tolerate the carrot and the stick approach to motivation.

The shift to remote work has removed the effectiveness of the “if you do this for me, I will do that for you” mentality, because the employee is now in a greater position of power than the employer when it comes to workplace mobility.

As a leader, you have to spend your time wisely. Choosing to spend most of your energy attempting to control others in their own environment only results in frustration and has the opposite effect of what you intend.

The path that leads to better human capital management is to let go of the idea that you can control or change the people you lead. Instead, step back and accept your team as it is.

Once you start there, you can then move on and make more logical decisions for how to move forward and build a winning culture.


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