If you really believe you are able to know what people’s attitudes are, then you are in the mind-reading business. If you believe you are able to read minds when talking to people you are really talking to yourself. –Ferdinand Fournies


You are a team leader on a cross-functional team project that includes; Sue from finance, Jack from engineering, Brian from Quality Assurance, Stephanie from human resources, Terri is the customer representative, Tony from production, and Mike (me) is the team coach.

In your 3rd project team meeting, you notice that Brian is yawning and making faces during your project update. You decide to talk with  Tony because Tony and you are drinking buddies.

  • You: “Tony, what is Brian’s deal with yawning during my presentations? He is lazy.”
  • Tony: “Yeah, I see him yawning in other meetings; he’s lazy.”
  • You: “I will have to talk with him about his laziness.”
  • Tony: “Let me know how it goes.”
Interventionmanagement is NOT mind reading

You arrange a meeting with Brian because you perceive yourself as a great manager. The subject line for the meeting is ‘UNDER-PERFORMANCE IN TEAM MEETINGS,’ and you CC Brian’s manager.

  • You: “Brian, do you know why I called you here today?”
  • Brian: “Yes, in reviewing the quality metrics we established for this project, we are 13% off from the acceptable mean for on-time and defects. That is a serious problem.”
  • You: “NO, BRIAN! It is your lazy behavior in the meetings.”
  • Brain: “Huh? What are you talking about lazy behavior in the meetings? I am early to every meeting with the expected quality reports, and my tasks are turned in on time; what do you mean, lazy?”
  • You: “Brian, you constantly yawn, and everyone in the meeting sees it. I spoke with several team members, and they told me you yawn in other meetings. This lazy behavior is derailing the effectiveness of this project. Perhaps you need more sleep or stronger coffee. It is not my job to make you excited…I am handling several BIG projects besides this one, and management is on my ass to show progress; I cannot have you being lazy.”
  • Brian: “Lazy? My project work is consistently on-time, and I received the Quality Assurance Employee of the month last month. Sorry if I yawn; that is not being lazy; it is just me yawning.”
  • You: “This lazy behavior of yours has to STOP! Otherwise, I have no choice but to deselect you from this project. That is all; I expect you to be less lazy in our future meetings. GOODBYE!”
  • Brian: “Ummm, I don’t agree, and goodbye.”
What happened here?

Management mind-reading. If you believe you can read people’s minds when talking with them, you are talking to yourself. You are projecting your thoughts onto their behaviors into the conversation because you know what they are thinking!

You are holding a conversation with yourself, and the employee is just there to play the opposite of you talking to you.

An indicator is when the person you are talking to is not responding to what you are talking about. You have already made up your mind about what you will say, and the other person’s responses and not needed in your conversation.

Solution(s)team building and evidence based management

Stop the madness! Realize that as a manager/team leader, you are paid to do everything possible to help employees be as successful as they need to be.

Believing that you are successful and you know what others are thinking because you would never yawn in a meeting; therefore, when someone yawns, you know what their attitude is, is self-destructive behavior.

You have just made up your mind, and any other facts will not be accepted.

As a manager, before you react, STOP ask yourself:
  • Is this worth my time and effort?
  • What if the behavior I am seeing I am interpreting incorrectly?
  • Is this person completing the work that I need them to complete?
  • Are they displaying any (-T) extreme negative temperaments affecting them getting their work done and team members getting their work done?
  • If I was NOT mind-reading because that power does not exist, how should I speak with this person?

If you still feel it necessary, arrange a 1 on 1 meeting with this person. BTW going to co-workers and forcing your interpretations onto them is also a disaster and only churns the rumor mill.

In this 1 on 1 meeting:
  • Calmly state what you have been observing.
  • Allow them to respond, LISTEN to what they say.
  • Respond to WHAT THEY SAID and share with them how that behavior may be affecting you.
  • Allow them to respond, LISTEN to what they say. Maybe your meetings are boring, or they have stayed late to complete work or watch their kids.
  • Ask them what you can do, if anything, that may improve your perception of the behavior. You may have to deal with it.
  • LISTEN to what they say.
  • Let them know what you plan on doing, and you appreciate their time and effort in helping you better understand yourself and how to be a better manager.