Trevor Stockwell Leadership Development Services

Lids and Labels limit

07 December 2021
Executive Coaching

First let’s look at the benefits of lids & labels.


We put lids on containers and on jars to stop the contents from spilling out or to keep them fresh so that they're ready to use when we need them. Labels can inform us of the contents of containers. So if we're in a store and we're looking for a certain product. We look for a certain label or brand to help identify what we need, or if we're not quite sure we can read information on the label that tells us whether this is actually going to do what we need it to or not. So there are definite benefits in lids and labels, but not everywhere...



Lids and Labels on people are restricting


Labels: as part of human nature, it's easy to box people up and to label them, categorise them. We can think, ‘I know what they're like. I know what they can do. If I need that I know who to talk to, and if not, I won't approach them.'


It's a generalisation, but it makes the point. Sometimes that's useful, most of the time it isn't. If we just go by labels that we put on other people or we hear other people apply to people then we can miss out. Some bad examples of labels that can be put on people:


'It's just that they never listen to anything you say'. Ever heard that one? Maybe they don't listen to everything that you say. Maybe they actually listen to things other people say! [I'll let you ponder and decide on that one.] 

Another bad / restricting label could be:


'They're not very intelligent'. Now everyone's gifted at something, whether they've developed it yet to a high level or not. It might not be academia. Their gift may be certain skills, i.e., they’re really good at building a house, or designing something, but not so good at exams or tests etc. But if we apply a label and just say, 'They're not very intelligent', it's restricting. It's just not helpful for people.

Remember lids and labels on people are restricting, so always avoid them where you can. Now the caveat is not everyone's going to be able to do everything so we can't have wrong expectations or unrealistic expectations that people can do everything. There are certain parameters that we operate in with regards to people. But let's not restrict people. 



Lids: are generally linked to the expectations that we have of other people. You might have an unrealistic or a misguided expectation that this person can get to a specific level in a skill, in a career or role. Now, they might actually be able to get to a higher level than that. But if your expectation is lower, once they reach the level of your expectation, chances are, unless you're intentional about it, you're going to stop investing in their further development. You're not going to give them opportunities to get to a higher level because you think they're not capable of going further. There will be frustration for them because when they really believe they can operate higher or grow to the next level and you put a lid lower than that, it's not an environment that's conducive for them to continue to grow and develop.


In this scenario, one of two things is likely to happen: 
1.    They'll either leave and go to an organisation, to another environment that helps them rise to the higher level they're aiming for. Or sad to say...
2.    They'll stay where they are and they'll live stifled under the lid that you've put on them, the expectations that you have of them. 


Neither of these is a good scenario for them or for you. 


Some examples of the restricting lids that we put on people: 


'He’s just not good with people'.


'She can't handle responsibility'.


They restrict, don't they? There may be certain experiences that's brought you to that conclusion, but those experiences are just a very small part of who they are. 


It could be that we put lids and labels on ourselves from what other people have said, or just how we feel, or from experiences where we tried something that didn't really work out that well, which led us to think, 'yeah, that's just not me'. Not helpful, is it? Is that restricting? Absolutely!


If you've applied lids and labels incorrectly, in a restrictive way to people (or yourself), the good news is that you can change them.  



You can take the lids off, you can give them opportunities, change the label, change the narrative, give them a different label if you have to categorise them. Or just be open to let them grow and develop in a different way and don't restrict them to certain capabilities.


Self-leadership: involves becoming more self-aware. What are the labels and the lids that you've set on yourself? As I mentioned earlier, other people can also put them on us. Experiences can affect our thinking and self-belief, causing us to believe that, ‘Actually, I can only really do this. I’m not going to try and get there because I don't think I can do it.'  How restricting is that?


What is it that's stopping you from doing what you want to do and actually hindering the direction that you want to grow in?


To really dig in and change fundamental beliefs about ourselves we have to look at our mindsets, our patterns of thinking. We have to dig into subconscious behaviours and see what's actually causing us to operate in the way that we do. That's why Coaching is so powerful when it comes to transformation, because it empowers you to look at those different areas.


What are some of the actions that you could take to change the label(s), the narrative that are over your life, to break out of the lid(s) that you're currently operating under? It may just be taking one or two actions to start changing your mindset and build momentum towards a better perspective. It's definitely worth thinking about and investing time into to make healthy adjustments. 


Leading others: are you a lid lifter? Have you put lids on people that are restricting them? Or are you someone that comes alongside and finds out what their aspirations are? What motivates them? What would they like to try and do even if they've never done it before? And then if there's opportunity and scope within your role, can you give them exposure to that? Can you help train and develop them, or are you going to set restrictions and say, 'We just need you to do that, just get on with that, let's not look at anything else.' That can be limiting for their career, and for your team, and your organisation at large. 


Good leaders raise up other leaders


Explore ways where you can have a conversation with them to see where you can help them. Then if you've put labels on them and think they can just do one or two things, take them off and think a bit wider about their opportunities. Don't put lids and labels on people if you don't need to. It's just restricting.


We could explore this further but for now, that's enough to get you thinking through what could be affecting your behaviour…and then towards others: 


How are you affecting how others behave, by how you look at them and how you communicate about them?


If you’d like to discuss this and utilise the accelerating power of the Coaching process to enhance your perspective so you can live and operate on a higher level, and empower others to also, then schedule a complimentary call with me...

I believe in YOU, and I believe in YOUR potential!


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