More than I care to admit, I've prejudged individuals both positively and negatively before taking the time to really get to know the person. Often, I've been shocked to learn the real character of an individual after I've worked with him or her over a period of time. Far too frequently, we make quick decisions based on first impressions, not proven performance, which is the key to determining future performance. Unfortunately, decisions can be made because of someone's articulation skills, writing ability, or appearance. Through the experience of being a leader for many years, I find it imperative to reserve judgment until performance is proven through action.
One of the most difficult tasks a leader must perfect is determining the actual skill level, honesty, and integrity of his or her team members. It's easy to fall into the trap of making performance decisions based on hearsay and not actual fact. This is a dangerous practice that can lead to poor morale, limiting the ability of your employees to work as a team. Situations often don't occur in the same way the story is translated to the leader. Throughout my entire career, I've worked in a bargaining unit work environment. To be successful at leading in a union setting, it's necessary to be consistent. The president of the local union and I were often equally surprised when the facts of an incident were finally determined. Many times there weren't two sides to a conflict, there were five! Every leader must find out as many facts as possible before rendering a decision.
Sometimes people will act and respond totally different to their supervisors than to their fellow team members. You might think these employees are strong members of your team, but later you determine that they're actually cutting you down every chance they get. These team members are the ones who appear cooperative in staff meetings and “yes” you to death, but the moment you turn your back, they're undermining you. Colleagues like these are extremely difficult to manage; they're hard to trust because they lack honesty and integrity.
A high-performing leader can wade through information that isn't important and target what will make a difference in determining consistently positive outcomes. Occasionally leaders may make a judgment that a team member is a weak performer because he or she has a quiet demeanor and appears not to be actively involved in meeting the needs of patients. However, when reviewing the team member's work, his or her performance is outstanding.
Remember the old saying “Don't judge a book by its cover”? We need to read passages repeatedly to understand what the author is actually telling us; the picture on the cover might have very limited, if any, insight into the actual content of the book. Don't miss the opportunity to help share in the success of an individual—the cover doesn't tell the whole story!