W. Austin Gardner
Believe in people
I really believe in people and see the best in them. It is one of my greatest strengths. At times, it can also be a great weakness. I’m sometimes too trusting, and I desire to empower others before they’re ready. Occasionally it gets me into trouble. But I’m willing to live with that risk because the rewards for others are so great.
When I was a young leader, one of the first people I hired burned me. He didn’t perform in the way he should have, and then he lied about it to cover his tracks. And I naively believed him. I came out of that interaction saying to myself, I’ll never let a staff member get close to me again. But I couldn’t sustain that mind-set. First of all, it was unfair to the other people I would lead in the future. Why should one person’s failure affect how I treat another person? Second, I realized that if I kept people at a distance, they might not be able to hurt me, but they wouldn’t be able to help me either.
If you’ve been hurt or disappointed in the past, please don’t let that negatively color your attitude in the future. Most of the time, believing in people truly does bring out the best in people.
It’s not enough just to believe in people, to think they are 10s. You need to express that belief. Philosopher-poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe said, “Treat a man as he appears to be and you make him worse. But treat a man as if he already were what he potentially could be, and you make him what he should be.”
John C. Maxwell, Winning with People: Discover the People Principles That Work for You Every Time (Nashville, TN: HarperCollins Leadership, 2007).
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