Snapshot Judgment…be careful

Posted: December 6, 2009 in Culture, Motivation
Tags: , , , ,

I remember growing up and my Dad owned one of only two drug stores in our town.  On occasional Sundays I’d be his only employee and looking back those were some of the best times of my life.  One Sunday he said that he had a very important business meeting and we had to leave early.  I came into the kitchen and he looked at me and said, “out of your entire wardrobe, you chose to wear jeans that untucked polo and your tennis shoes which are untied?”

At a business appointment at 8PM on Saturday evening, it brought that moment rushing back.  The young man was wearing jeans, flip-flops, a t-shirt, and a hoodie.  As I approached he was engrossed in a game on his i-phone (this happens frequently — i-phones must be addictive).  As a young man there was nothing more I wanted than for my father to take me seriously, so I pushed aside my initial snapshot judgment — with some difficulty (the hair and tattoos were another story).  Now, for each of us the snapshot is different — for some it occurs in seconds others it can be minutes or hours, either way we must acknowledge it is a snapshot.

We can all be guilty of snapshot management:

  • the crying baby on an airplane can cause us to not like the airline
  • broken bottle in a parking lot means the store is bad
  • staff talking as I approach are distracted or inattentive
  • people with tattoos are in a cult (customer once shared that one)
  • muscular or fit staff are all on steroids
  • athletes are dumb (heard that in a speech)
  • cleaning staff are uneducated and dirty (another past customer)

We could take the same trip and have entirely different pictures in our scrapbooks.  Some of these snapshots are also part of our ingrained biases.  Do you see what I see?  No.

How do we judge our team?  If I look at a financial or sales volume snapshot, does it tell the story of what is going on in terms of someone’s total performance?  I have never sat in a business meeting and said, “imagine how good you would be performing if you didn’t have those tattoos and a better haircut”.  Great performance cannot be forced or controlled, it must be inspired.

As leaders, are we creating inspiration or perspiration?

Now, back to the young man with wild hair and an affinity for his i-phone.  He leads a significant business that he launched on his own while in high school, is a brilliant leader and writer, and he is quite successful.  I learned a great deal in our hour or so together.  I also learned that we each have 24 hours in a day, and judging someone on 3 seconds or even 30 minutes of it can be fatal in terms of my learning, development and success.

If you’re a leader, put the Polaroid perspective away — leave the quick judgments to reality TV and out of your personal and professional life.

The only person we have the right to judge is the one who’s shoes we’re walking in.  And Dad would be proud — mine are now tied.

Be remarkable.


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