You’ve probably heard the question before; is the glass half empty or half full? It’s the wrong question. It’s better to ask, what the glass is full of. Unless it’s in a vacuum, the glass, or any container, is always full of something. Even the glass that is filled halfway with liquid is still full. The rest of the volume is taken up with air, dust, and other things you can’t see and probably don’t want to think about. People are like that too.
While we may clearly see certain aspects of other people there’s much about them we don’t see. Just as with the glass, we tend to judge other people based only on what is obvious to us rather than striving to learn more about them.
Years ago I started a new job that was quite challenging and I was apprehensive about leading this new team which was having some problems. Upon meeting the new team, I quickly formed a negative opinion of one of the members. My first impression was that he was disorganized, and slow to accomplish tasks. I immediately formed the opinion that he was undependable and probably a source of trouble for the team. A fellow team leader, who had known him for some time, told me I was underestimating this person and suggested I take another look. Paying closer attention, I began to see that the person I thought of as undependable and trouble, actually had a great deal of experience, a deep understanding of our complex responsibilities, and a vast corporate knowledge of the larger organization. He seemed slow to accomplish tasks because he utilized all the time available in order to deliver the best, most accurate results possible. I came to rely on him quite heavily, and when he retired a couple of years later he left a huge hole in our team.
One of the most important skills a leader must develop is the ability to understand their team. Initial impressions can be wrong and while it can be difficult to move beyond those first impressions, remember the glass is always full. Just as you have to learn what’s in the glass, you must remember that everyone on your team is more than they first appear to be.