Monday, March 2, 2009

Give Your Time And Attention To The Positive

I read a quote last night by a new friend of mine, Freda Mooncotch of, "Negative experiences scream for attention, but you have to go hunt for and embrace the positive ones!" It touched me in such a powerful way that I felt compelled to write about it on the spot and share it with you all today. And I thank Freda for her permission to use her powerful quote.

This is a lesson I seem to highlight a lot in coaching sessions. Reward the right behaviors.
And know exactly what reward looks like - it's not always easy to spot.

I used to have a boss that would have meetings (closed door meetings) with his higher staff when he really wanted to lay into them and focus their attention. However, the rest of his time was spent in near solitude. And he hardly ever spent any time praising his staff when they did things correct. The interesting thing was I can clearly remember him getting frustrated, because he couldn't figure out why, no matter how harsh he got with his staff, they kept screwing up.

Why do you think it happened? Why do you think they continued to screw up?

In my opinion, it was because, more than anything, his staff valued his time - even if that time was filled with negative feedback. They wanted to do the right things, but more importantly, they saw his time as the bigger reward than the punishment of getting yelled at. And people do what they are rewarded to do. Don't get me wrong, they would have preferred to have praise and opportunities to consult with him in positive situations. But since that never happened, and they could only get time with him (to hear his opinions and to share theirs) by "screwing up", then unconsciously, that is what they were going to do.

The key here is that if you want a behavior or habit to develop either in yourself or in others that touch your life, then teach them and reward that behavior. It is the best way to make sure you get it again and again.

Unfortunately, this isn't the standard style of management, leadership, training, or parenting in our society. Instead, what we tend to do is tell people everything we don't want them to do - by yelling, screaming, or punishing by some other form. And somehow, we hope they will be able to figure out what to do correctly from knowing clearly what not to do.

As common as this is, it rarely works - and yet we just keep doing it. The problem is simply that the opposite of wrong is not right. You can't just tell someone what not to do. You must tell them what to do. Because the opposite of wrong is not right. That's not to say it couldn't be, but there is no guarantee. I know this sounds like common sense - but as we all know, "Common Sense is not Common Practice."

So the trick here is communicating what is "right" and making sure it's clearly understood by defining the end state / goal that you want to achieve. Be as clear as you can from the beginning. Then teach them what you want done and how you would like it done (if that applies). If you don't care how, and are willing to give them leeway, that's fine, too. You can do that. But they still need to know what the result should look like - what you are going to hold them to. And this requires work and attention - not something most of us are good at.

When people are first learning, take time to reward them more often - build their confidence along the way. Let them know that you care about how they are doing, giving as much positive feedback as you can stand to give at each step of their progress.

If they make mistakes - correct them, but do NOT punish them - so long as they are honestly trying to learn.

The more you focus on rewarding positive behavior and less on highlighting negative bad behavior, the more often you and your staff will do the right things. And the less often you will see negative behavior.

Try it. I'm pretty confident you will be awed by the results.


  1. Awe, you are so very sweet and that is incredibly awesome of you to quote me. The quote is actually by Pat Pearson. I just borrowed it from her.

    I love your enthusiasm to help people be more positive and take charge of their lives. In today's world of negativity, woe is me is challenging to take responsibility for yourself, your thoughts and what you bring or don't bring to your relationships!

    I am glad that our paths have crossed on twitter! You are a very sage and wise person!

    I would like to extend the invitation to be one of the men who moderates and runs when it launches. You have so much to offer other men who are trying to be the best they can be in when things aren't as clear as they once were!


  2. Thanks for the positive post... Something wonderful happens (better feelings, better relationships, healthy hearts, a more willingness to change/improve and so on) when we choose to dwell in the positive. I find positive, happy people to be a bit more empowered than the ones connected to the negative forces in and around them.

    Wendy Christensen
    Wiggle Like a Fish

    Author of -
    "It's the Little Moments that Matter"

  3. Freda, Thank you so much for the kind words. I look forward to a long and mutually beneficial relationship together as we explore the Alpha in us all.


  4. Wendy, Thank you for the comments. It's great when we are able to connect with each other - especially by rewarding great behavior. I look forward to learning about "wiggle like a fish".