The first time I had a chance to professionally give someone an opportunity was when I was in my twenties, and it involved hiring my first employee. I can vividly recall both the excitement and trepidation I felt about making the decision to hire this person. It wasn’t because I was concerned about them being able to do the job, it was because of the fact I did not have experience with knowing how to manage another person. It turns out thirty years later I did find out that I did know how to manage someone, and they sent me a hand-written letter expressing their gratitude to me for giving them a chance, and hiring them.
At that point in time, I had been managed by other people, and fortunately I had some amazing bosses, and one not so amazing one. In some respects, I probably learned more from the not-so-great manager, and this was because I was cataloging in my mind things they did that I would never want to do as a manager. One of them was to be a micromanager, and unfortunately for me, they had this skill down perfectly. However, the best news about my least favorite manager was that they gave me a chance to enter a new career which I proceeded to be in for another twenty plus years.
Upon looking back on the opportunity that manager gave me, I realized that they must have seen something in me which warranted bringing me onto their team. As I think more about why they did this, I would say it was because we were complete opposites in terms of our methods of how we interacted professionally. He was extremely introverted, and you guessed it, I was the opposite of this. My ability to interact and get along with others helped him to bridge the gap he had with interacting with all of the employees we had to work with. In some respects, I now realize that he did become better at working with people, and perhaps some of this had to do with me demonstrating how to do so.
With few exceptions, everyone has at least one time in their life when they either can recall, or will have a situation personally or professionally to give another person a chance. Either to do something trivial, or perhaps extraordinary.
Consider a recent scenario when you may have actually passed and did not give another person an opportunity. If you broke down the reasons why you didn’t give them a chance, was it because you were afraid they might make you look bad? Was it because you were concerned you would have to spend a great deal of time mentoring them? Or, was it because you didn’t think they would “fit in” with the team?
If you didn’t hire someone because you didn’t think they would fit in, chances are high that this was based on a bias you may have had, but would never admit to. Or perhaps it was because you had a gut instinct that something wasn’t quite right on a number of different levels, but you may not have been able to articulate exactly what they were. It was purely a feeling you had.
In the case of not giving someone a chance was oriented around a negative bias, I want you to seriously think about something. Did you feel intimidated by this individual? Were you concerned they might outperform you at some point? Perhaps their intelligence level was greater than yours, or possibly their EQ was obviously higher than yours? The point is, that you were afraid on some level, but may not have considered this as a factor.
The interesting aspect of being afraid is that most of the time, our fear is based on something irrational. Although there are occasions when it is real. However, most of the time, the fear we have is in our minds, and if we took the time to potentially override this, imagine the outcome of many of our decisions. One time I heard a great acronym for fear, and I have always thought about this myself when I felt fearful. The acronym for F.E.A.R. is “false expectations appearing real”. This simple statement has course corrected many of my own decisions throughout the journey of my life, and I hope it might provide you with a new way of confronting your own fears.
To help you increase your odds of giving another person a chance or opportunity, here are some suggestions to consider:
· Think about how much giving the person a chance might change the trajectory of their personal or professional life. It might not be that dramatic of an impact, but then again, it might.
· What is the worst-case scenario of this person being given a chance, and having them fail?
· Look at what you can do to set the person up for success. If you are a leader, this is always something you should be doing. No exceptions.
· Be honest with the person about any reservations you have about giving them an opportunity, and let them mitigate any concerns you have.
· Nothing is permanent, and taking a chance on someone doesn’t have to be either, so err on giving one.
· Consider how this person might compliment, augment or even out strengths you or others on your team have.
· Mentoring someone can be a great on ramp, or interim option prior to fully committing to giving someone a chance if you are hesitant in doing so.
· Do your best to override your fear of helping this person out. It might turn out to be the best decision you ever made, and hiring my first employee turned out that way.
With few exceptions, everyone deserves to be given an opportunity. Whether it is to succeed, be included or be given more responsibility. The list is endless in terms of the benefits both that person and you will gain when you are in a position to give someone a chance. Keeping in mind, that someone likely gave you at one point or more in your life.
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