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We wonder why the employees we manage or the children we parent or the people we love do not seem to listen or care about what we have to say. The reason is actually very easy to understand.

The Delusion

Often we operate in a delusion. We do not prioritize caring about people as much as we care about getting what we want. Then we justify our own negative behavior toward them by viewing them almost as inanimate objects – as if we HAVE to treat them impersonally because they deserve it. Does this make them want to perform better for us the way inspired and engaged people do? No.

The Delusion and Your Children

Think about it – You want your teenage child, whose grades are less than adequate, to do his homework so you tell him he better do it or he is going to get bad grades, not get into a good college and will not be a success. Makes sense, right? Makes sense to you but not to him. He hears you say, “You get bad grades, will never go to a good college and will end up a loser.” Ugh! Do you think he cares what you think when you think he is a loser? Of course not. So he tunes you out for being overbearing, negative, and critical. He then under-performs to control the situation and get back at you. And subsequently do you end up feeling overbearing, negative, critical not to mention ineffective? Yep. So consequentially he is justified in his feelings about you and you are justified in your feelings about where he is going to end up. Everyone is living a delusion because of course he could do his homework and go to a good school and be a success. And of course your leading qualities are not to be overbearing, negative and critical. You can only control your role in any delusion.

Could it be that as parents sometimes we want our children to perform well so that we can feel good about it? As a manager do we sometimes want our employees to perform well so that we will look good? In relationships do we sometimes want or loved ones to make us feel loved and appreciated so that we are happy? Yes. That is human nature. So how do we get there? By caring about them as people first and ourselves second. That is what makes us truly human – to care about others in a way we would never care about an object – to care about them before ourselves. So when we do not see people as people but mere objects for our own good, we have betrayed ourselves.

You might say to your son, “I love you and want to help you feel good about doing your homework. Can I help you organize your homework or get some special tools to help you?” He’ll of course look at you as if you have three heads. You’ll continue, “You said that you like business. I’d like for us to visit a friend of mine who is an investment advisor together so that you can ask him questions about what he does. I think it might be really interesting for both of us.” At this point he’ll be waiting for the catch. “How about next Monday after school? I’ll leave work early.”

The Delusion and Your Employees

Think about how this plays out in work. You think you care about your employees or your colleagues. You don’t micromanage them nor are you demanding. You give them little gifts at holidays. You occasionally ask them about their children. Yet they don’t seem to care about the company or worse yet helping you to look good. They don’t really have your back. Your Delusion – So therefore they are lazy and ungrateful and don’t deserve for you to provide opportunities for them to learn and grow.

Your colleagues notice that all you seem to focus on is your work. You don’t even know the names of some of their spouses and you never talk about helping them learn anything new. And you don’t keep them informed on what the vision is for their area. Their Delusion – Therefore you are a work-a-holic with no life who doesn’t care about them or whether or not they move up in the company so why should they work hard for you?

What the Delusion Costs You

End Result – As a manager your area is not as productive as it needs to be. As employees, their work is unfulfilling. This leads to high attrition, employee disengagement and low productivity. All of these boil down to lost money and purpose for all involved – the business looses money and the manager and the employees don’t advance.

The Solution to Delusion

Stop betraying yourself by seeing those around you as a means to your own fulfillment. I am a fan of visualization techniques. Look hard at the faces of the people close to you in your office, your close relationships and your life and ask yourself if you value them as a person or as an inanimate object. Are you living a delusion of self-betrayal by detaching from then because you perceive they don’t deserve better? And has the repetitive nature of your choices brought any better engagement from your staff, colleagues and loved ones? Try seeing the people you lead and care about as small children who need guidance. Envision what they would look like as a seven-year-old. Every time you interact with the people close to you, envision them as children who need a helping hand, who need guidance, who need love. Then watch them change their behavior. Start now!

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Mary Lee Gannon is a cultural turnaround and leadership expert who went from being a stay-at-home mother with four children to a difficult marriage, divorce, homelessness, and welfare to CEO. Her book “Starting Over – 25 Rules When You’ve Bottomed Out” is available on Amazon.com and details how she went from an earning capacity of $27,000 annually to president and CEO within just a few years. Visit her Web site at www.StartingOverNow.com.