Staying Above the Water Line
(Note to parents: this works with kids as well)
As a leader, have you had a team member or employee you found hard to praise or compliment because they were pretty average in their performance or were even struggling, or perhaps you butted heads with them?
It is natural to pick out all the bad things your team members are doing, when your main focus is staying above the water line. You have eyes like a hawk and are quick to react to actions that could cause the team to drop below the water line. You are the captain and you don’t want the ship to sink.
Mistakes are Obvious to You
The little mistakes that may go unnoticed by most people become glaringly obvious to you. Such as when you organize an event and you receive all kinds of praise from participants on a job well done and in your head all you can think about is the 10 things that didn’t go as planned and the moments when team members didn’t perform their tasks exactly as expected.
Perhaps you find that over the past while, every interaction with a team member seems to have a negative tone because you feel like you have to constantly tell them what they are not doing right or what needs to be different next time.
“catch them doing something right”
If you have ever found yourself in this position as a leader, I suggest you take on the approach of trying what I call “catch them doing something right”. Instead of having your blinder on and nitpicking the little things, try to shift your attention to things they are doing right or well. Look at these moments as small wins and build on them. This can take a bit of a mental mind shift for a leader but it can change your relationship with the team members and how they respond to you.
As I wrote in my last blog, Are You Showing the Right Appreciation at Work, leaders delivering the right kind of regular appreciation can have a tremendous impact on an individual, even if the appreciation occurs for something you “caught them doing right”. Your praise may start with little things they are doing right and grow over time. Appreciation and positive feedback/feed-forward can have a tremendous impact on a person, increasing their motivation, confidence, respect, and commitment to the team, just to name a few.
To be in a position to “catch them”, you will typically need to spend more time with your team and observe their behaviours. If you are a leader that likes to stay at an arm’s length from your team, this closer attention can be a good thing.
Have you tried this practice? If so, let me know how it went in the comments below.