I had the pleasant privilege this week of presenting a Five Year Tenure award to Vistage speaker and improviser extraordinaire, John Cremer. John spoke to my Vistage CE group last December in a never-to-be-forgotten learning experience of improvisation.
Among other activities he facilitated a short role play exercise with two people facing each other and one starting off the conversation with something like “Why don’t we try a....?” His companion had to reply only with “Yes, AND....”
The effect was that the role play was bright, positive and enthusiastic if a trifle wacky in the event, and this effect was consistent among all the pairs of participants.
Then each pair had to answer only “Yes BUT......” and the effect was startling. While the body language in the first example was open and upright, in the “Yes but...” people closed down and almost drooped. Please note: we are talking about role play here and not the real thing so one can imagine in a real situation how it would be received.
The exercise had such an effect that one of the group members changed the name of his Board Room to “The Yes And... Room” and the word BUT has been banned. He says that as a consequence the atmosphere at meetings is entirely different and almost exclusively positive.
Much has been said and written about the power of positive thought in business and in life in general and there is no doubt that it can have a dramatic effect on personal, team and corporate performance.
That old curmudgeon, Henry Ford, called it just right when he said:
· “If you say you can or you say you can’t, you’re always right!
The point is that a constant repetition in the mind of almost any mantra has a positive effect provided that it is continued over a period, said to be around thirty days, when it becomes a habit.
According to Dr Topher Morrison, when he carried out his research with a group of people he asked them to note down their emotions every day over a week. He found people tend to have a list of negative emotions that is three times that of positive. Other researchers have commented we can have up to 1500 negative thoughts a day and there are more negative words in the English Language dictionary than positive ones.
The key is for a leader to make positive thinking a constant in the business perhaps by regular reinforcement of the message – that “BUT” should be banned in discussions (how about a BUT box fine at meetings?) and occasional role plays of “Yes and....” and “Yes but...” to emphasise the difference.
There is really nothing new about this. In the 1920s French psychologist,, Emile Coue (1857-1926), made popular the practice of clasping the hands in from of the body and saying:
· “Every day and in every way I am getting better and better!”
and once again he said that the change in attitude would become a habit in around 30 days.
There is plenty of good reading matter on the subject to be found but it is worth looking at The Power of Positive Thinking by Norman Vincent Peale dating from 1952 and revised in 2009 (ISBN 978-0-13686-44-55), and another 2009 book, Positivity, (ISBN 978-1-906316-46-4) by former ITV presenter and prospective Vistage speaker, Arti Halai.
Remember, AND is an encouraging word and BUT is a discourager so be sure that you use the right one. Make “Yes AND...” into a habit.