If you’ve followed me for a while now, you know how influential my mother has been in my life.  Today, I’d like to share a quote my Mom used when I was growing up and questioning my ability to do something.  That pearl of wisdom is: “Can’t CAN DO Everything!”  It’s pretty clear what these few words mean and certainly an affirmation and a call to action for me and universally applicable to anyone who hears them.

Talk to any manager, supervisor, motivator and ask them what their pet peeve is and you’ll most likely hear:  ‘People who say they can’t. There’s no such thing as can’t.’ I’m sure many people agree with this upbeat attitude while others, quite frankly,  may feel alienated by it.

I know that human beings are far too rich and complex to be labeled in terms of can and can’t. If managers are to have any hope of motivating their team, they need to figure out where people are coming from. They need to find out why they feel they can’t and convince them that they can.

Why do people feel they can’t?                             

There are many powerful reasons for it including:

  • A discouraging family environment. Parents, family and friends may have made people feel that they can’t, whether intentional or otherwise.
  • Illness or disabilities. People with disabilities are often made to feel that they can’t. People may also suffer from chronic depression, which saps confidence.
  • Disappointments and setbacks. If people often encounter obstacles to success despite their best efforts, they may not have the heart to try again.

As a manager, you may have little impatience for excuses. And that’s as it should be. Figuring out why people can’t doesn’t mean condoning bad behavior. But if you’re an employer, you literally can’t afford not to figure out why people can’t. Firing people is a lot of hassle, with unfair dismissals you then face the expense of possible litigation and eventually of recruiting and training someone new.

Instead, you can try a few simple tactics for turning can’t into can.

  • Find out why people feel they can’t. If people know that you understand where they’re coming from and that you have compassion for them, they’ll open up and it will be easier for you to help them.
  • Show them that they can. Share with them what you think their strengths are. Nobody is immune to a bit of flattery and it gives people confidence.
  • Give them strategies to move forward. If they’re having difficulty completing tasks, give them the resources they need, whether that’s mentoring, help from another staff member or literature to read up on.

It may seem like a lot of hassle, but if you take the time to turn can’t into can, you’ll build an amazing team and an amazing business.

Good Luck!