“They think they are doing a good job.”

This first occurred to me nearly twenty years ago, when I was at a meeting that got ugly.

The ‘professionals’ on the other side of the table were being extremely confrontational – to the point of threatening. My lawyer (always have someone else negotiate when you are emotionally involved in the outcome) was much more passive. I was being asked to do something that was against my values and principles.

When they ramped up the pressure (threats) I realised that these ‘professionals’ believed that they were doing a good job and no amount of talk would change that. So I left the meeting. They did not get a result so they probably did not do a good job. I later became aware that this is known as ‘The Dunning-Kruger Effect’.

Understanding ‘they think they are doing a good job’ lead me to lift my game as a business owner and manager. When performance was not meeting expectation I consciously decided what skills, resources and environment staff needed to really do a good job. Then their belief and my reality had a better chance of matching.

It often happens that someone, who believes that they are performing well, gets fired because their boss thinks otherwise. The employer has allowed the performance to continue unchecked and provides no feedback until it all gets too much and he or she sees termination as the solution.  Often, they were the person who hired the individual in the first place!

A failure to recognise that most, if not all people, want to do a good job costs organisations a lot of money. In his brilliant book on motivation Drive Daniel H. Pink narrates how Jim Collins author of Good to Great suggests four basic practices for creating a culture where self-motivation can flourish:

  1. “Lead with questions not, not answers.”
  2. “Engage in dialogue and debate, not coercion.”
  3. “Conduct autopsies, without blame.”
  4. “Build ‘red flag’ mechanisms.” In other words, make it easy for employees and customers to speak up when they identify a problem.

People can be like plants – give them the right environment to grow, take care of them, and you will harvest a great crop. We only weed plants after we have tried nurturing.

As always, I would love to hear from you on your experiences.


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