Why Changing Your Comparison Can Make You A Better Leader

We often look to other people as our measuring stick.  Take running, if we finish behind them we feel bad, if we finish in front of them we feel good.  Or at least that is what I am familiar with, that’s how I have measured myself.  

I run recreationally, and there are a lot of people who finish before me and some who finish after me in races.  I find it very difficult to not compare myself to other women in my age category.  But that doesn’t do me any good, it doesn’t motivate me, it just simply makes me feel bad about what I have done or good for about 5 minutes having ‘beat someone across the line.  Its a short lived feeling because there will always be someone faster.  To add some perspective, what I’ve just done is run 5, 10 or 21kms in whatever weather is present that day and no matter how I am feeling.  That in and of itself is something to celebrate.  So I need to change my comparisons.

The truth is I’m an okay runner, likely not built to run, and not the fastest but not the slowest.  I think I know what a good run for me looks like in terms of time and how I feel.  If I measure myself against what’s possible for me then I can identify when I’m not working hard enough or the opposite.  If I compare myself to other runners then I immediately feel like I have failed in some way, that I’m not good enough or fast enough or I didn’t try hard enough.  So I am giving that up.  I’m going to measure myself against my own effort, because I am in charge of my own effort.  And if I am slagging and not trying I know that and I can make excuses or come up with reasons or I can use it as a way to see how I can be better.  That’s the interesting part, we are all in charge of our motivation and our level of effort.

I made a presentation last week to a local charity group and afterwards one person asked me ‘what gives you the energy every day?’  I answered honestly, I don’t have energy every day.  But after some introspection, I realized that my real motivation for rising each day is that I get another shot at it, another chance to do it better or cleaner or smarter or more efficiently or whatever.  Each day gives me the opportunity to grow my character, my strength, my vision, my faith and my own well being.  Sound a bit pie in the sky or ‘fluffy’  I agree.  But it’s true.  Hope is what gets my butt out of bed. 

Comparing yourself only leads to some sort of feeling that is either fleeting or festering.  It’s your job to figure out what your limits are and how to move them or fall within them. 

If we apply this to the workplace, as a leader, comparing your employee’s to one another is equally defeating and false.  They are individuals, they are not apples to apples or Bob to Bob’s.  You need to understand what their ‘best time’ is and how to maximize their motivation and hope in your own race at work. 

Leadership takes time and effort.  Your team will need different levels of attention at different times.  It’s up to you to know who they are, what motivates them, what de-motivates them, what they need in terms of care and comfort and when they need some help refocusing their efforts to the race at hand.  If you compare them to each other, then they will compare themselves to each other and that will create an imbalance.  The power is not doing it like someone else, the power is in doing it in the best way you can.  The power is diversity.  The gift is individuality.
  • Garry Reid
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    So motivation comes from within; hence, I can't really motivate people? I can find out watch switches them on and work on getting them going that way

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    Garry – When you know what motivates someone you can use that to get them moving in the right direction. Everyone has a currency, your job as a leader is to figure out what that is and use it for good.

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