Focus on the Positive

A leadership skill that’s harder to practice than it should be is to focus on the positive.

I used to be a teacher, and in that role, I had to give tests and grade papers. I noticed that some of my colleagues focused on the negative by writing the number missed at the top. Others focused on the positive by posting the number correct. For example, some chose to focus on the negative and would write “Minus Five” at the top. Others focused on the positive and would write “95% correct.”

I have published a newsletter at work for several years now. I occasionally get feedback on the newsletter, but it’s almost always about something negative — a word misspelled (despite careful proofing), or a statement that someone does not agree with. I want people to notify me of these things, for sure, but it would be nice from time to time for someone to send me a note telling me that they liked a particular article. In fact, I almost never receive such positive feedback, even though I have published well over 400 stories in the past two years. Does this mean that the article are no good? I don’t think so. I think it’s simply a reflection of th fact that people tend to notice and pay attention to what’s wrong, and to take what’s right for granted.

Leaders are no exception. They want the best from their employees, so they often spend their time with an employee pointing out what’s wrong. At the same time, they may overlook what’s right and take it for granted.

But animal trainers and the best parents know that the most successful training method is to comment on and reward what the pet or child is doing right, and to pay as little attention as possible to what they are doing wrong. So why don’t we do the same thing with people at work?

I don’t have an answer as to the reason, other than the natural human tendency to notice and pay attention to what’s wrong. But I feel certain that the best leaders focus on the positive more than they point out flaws. They build on what works, and by doing so, they achieve the best results.

Do you have ideas for how to do this? If so, I hope you’ll share.

There Are 2 Responses So Far. »

  1. My best boss ever was a master at this skill, but I think she came by it naturally. She spent about a week getting to know me before she honed in on my strengths and got me going on a “spirit committee” project. Not only did I excel in that role, but I also got better in my other role as customer service technician because I was happy to be at work. I felt appreciated and recognized for who I am at my core and that was very powerful.

  2. I think I make this mistakes in my daily life very often.
    In my workplace I can find a couple of examples easily.
    Like when we order food to the restaurant, we always call them when something gone wrong. But when everything goes perfect we never calls them.
    Think I have to change that.
    /Tyren

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