Who Put That Fence In The Way?
I was having an interesting conversation recently (something I’m fortunate in doing regularly) and something rather obvious occurred to me.
It is a little surprising that this ‘epiphany’ felt as profound as it did at the time, when on reflection it seems like it’s been a clear thought in my own mind for a long time.
It’s interesting though how the act of stating something, seemingly at random, can really clarify and solidify our own thinking.
So, my epiphany as it were (the more I write that, the more I feel like I’m overselling it!) was this:
Our opinions, biases and perspectives impose artificial limits on potential and therefore performance, of both ourselves and others.
Ok, I hear you, “durrh”. And yes, I would certainly agree with you.
Whilst the context of the conversation was about parents and medical professionals referring to children, I believe it has equal applicability in any context.
Our conversation was how inherent biases form as a result of a pathological view of neurodiversity, that is understanding it from a deficits perspective.
So when a parent is told for example, ‘your autistic child will not be able to…’ it creates a potential limitation in the mind of the parent.
Should the parents then take that to heart, they may then allow that child to grow up believing that they (the child) ‘will not be able to…’
And yet, at not point, has anyone necessarily given that child the opportunity to try, to attempt, to learn or to fail at this thing they ‘cannot do’. How then can they categorically state they are not able?
Should the child grow up believing this to be a ‘truth’ about themselves, what possibilities are they then missing out on? Their potential has been limited and therefore the extent to which they may try things (their performance) is also then limited.
Now consider this in the work context, and to be honest, with any employee.
If you are to enter a relationship with a staff member with assumptions of what they can’t do, to what extent will those assumptions ultimately prove to be true? And should that then be the case, do you then believe that you were right - your judgement was sound?
Or was it perhaps just a self fulfilling prophecy? All that happened was the employee lived up (or rather down) to your expectations of them.
What if you believed their potential was unlimited. That the limits to their ability to achieve have more to do with motivation, desire and the level of support they receive?
How would you then approach your relationship with them? What would you do differently?
Now here’s a twist - what about yourself? What do you believe about yourself and what limitations are those beliefs creating for yourself?
Is your potential capped at where you ‘believe’ it to be? How much have you tested that ‘truth’ and come to know what is and isn’t possible?
If you tried and failed, does that logically mean it’s impossible? If there was a change in motivation, desire, support or environment, could it be done?
To what extent does these beliefs about yourself impact your performance? The level of effort and where you apply that effort?
Spend some time exploring your own self imposed limitations, where they come from and what impact they might be having on you. Then take that new perspective and look around at those you may lead.
There are no limits, other than those we impose on ourselves and others.
Are you ready to do ‘different’ and realise the value that a more diverse workforce can bring? Neurodiverse internships are a fantastic way to not only give young people invaluable work experience, but you might just find your next great hire.