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Quick Thought: Beneath the Woody Exterior

Quick Thought: Beneath the Woody Exterior

Where I live in Northern Michigan, winter hangs around for a very long time. By March, we start to feel increasingly ready for spring’s arrival. And yet, more often than not, there’s still snow everywhere. On the surface, not a single sign of springtime.

But things are not always what they seem. Inside the maple trees, invisible to the outside observer, the sap is starting to run. Those who tap into this will be rewarded with a valuable treasure: real maple syrup.

This year, as I consider the special treat of that “secret” sap, I realize it’s a good metaphor for a phenomenon I often see when coaching managers through struggles with seemingly unmotivated employees.

“She’s just not showing me anything,” I hear as my frustrated client explains. Neither does the maple tree – from the outside.

In many cases, the fact is that this unmotivated employee is simply not a maple – nothing running beneath the surface. (Not for this role, anyway.)

But in many other cases, there’s a lot more there than meets the eye.

Sometimes, all the manager needs to do is ask himself, What am I not seeing? What runs beneath the surface but isn’t bubbling up yet?

If you don’t intuitively know, try the direct route: ask the employee. Still nothing? Listen for revelation, and tune into her interactions with the team as well.

Once you discover what lights her up, tap into it. It’s likely that you’ll be rewarded with a new level of commitment.

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