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You Can Lead a Horse to Water.

waterHave you ever had a situation where you can see the potential in someone? Whether that be sporting, academic, creative, leadership or even confidence; you can see it in the person well before they recognise it. So you work with them, provide opportunities for them to step up, you coach and encourage them, invest time and money only for your effort to fall flat.

It’s incredibly frustrating when these situations occur. Right before your very eyes, you see such potential and greatness in someone just wasting away. If only they would take the bull by the horns so to speak and embrace the challenge. If only they would put in that little bit more effort. If only….if only.

There is a real leadership lesson in this.

In order for people to reach their full potential, they need to have the attitude and the motivation in abundance. The person needs to want to do it. As a leader, you cannot make them do it.

It’s a similar case when people are wanting or needing to make a change or improve in a certain area. They have to want to do it. All the feedback and coaching in the world isn’t going to make a difference unless the motivation is there unless they can see and believe with passion what making that change will mean for them. That’s a decision only that person can make. Not you. And as hard as it may be, you need to let go of the vision you had for that person.

I had a situation the other day with a client where we were discussing a team member’s performance. He has the skill and capability to be great at his role, but the attitude isn’t there. Instead of embracing the opportunity and following the steps that have been effectively laid out for him, he chooses not to do it. He chooses to take a defeatist attitude and wants to be assessed on his capabilities alone, not understanding the importance of his attitude and engagement for the culture of the business and his team members around him. That is his choice. And despite months of coaching provided by his leaders, he’s not going to change.

‘You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink’;
is a proverb that leaders and coaches need to keep in mind when they dearly want someone to change. When it’s just simply not going to happen you have to let it go regardless of how much you believe in the person, how long they’ve been with your organisation, how much you know they will regret it in the future, this is not an area you can control. As frustrating and disappointing as it is, you need to step away and understand the only person who can control this situation is the person you see with the potential. It’s in their hands now. They need to want it.