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Sunday, 24 June 2018

Finding Mistakes in the Business? “We Gotta Accentuate the Positive!”

Vistage UK speaker, Marcus Child, tells of hearing the pre-match briefing by the coach of his son’s football team.  He was enthusiastic, engaging, practical and...almost entirely negative.

That does sound strange until we analyse what he was saying to the team.  The exhortations were all about “we must stop passing sideways”, “we need to stop them…”, “don’t waste your efforts on…” and so in in the same vein.

All very sensible but negative as the  use of the words such as Stop, Don’t, Can’t and so on have a subtle effect on the subconscious.

The fact is that in many situations in business meetings we do tend to emphasise the correction of errors and the sorting out the results of negative events.

There is no doubt that we need to do something about these situations but not to the exclusion of positive events.

If we concentrate on the correction of mistakes then they take on an importance that is possibly unrealistic.

It is always enlightening to check the financial impact of any error that has occurred and then to compare it to the financial value of something that has been accomplished.

More often than not there is an imbalance, in that the cost of the error is less than the value of the success.

In other words we need to get these matters into perspective.

Certainly we need to consider any errors or mistakes that occur but primarily so that we can learn from them and ensure that the systems, processes and procedures are sufficiently robust or need to be adjusted to eliminate as far as possible any repeat.

More importantly consideration of errors must never be used as a present day star chamber to allocate that dreaded word, blame.

I have posted recently about this toxic approach and it bears repetition.  There is too much enthusiasm to allocate blame for something that has gone awry and it seems that one factor is to make sure that the world knows that “it wasn’t me, guv’nor”.  It is so easy to find fault, to allocate blame, to ensure that “heads must roll” and all the other unpleasant effects of the blame culture.  Unpleasant they are and toxic because they generate an atmosphere of fear that, heaven forfend, it might happen to me so I will keep my head down.

Meetings that emphasise errors and failures psychologically have a negative effect on the participants so it is better to design the agenda of the meeting to counterbalance that effect with positive messages.

In essence it is better to reduce the emphasis on stopping errors and start boosting positive accomplishments.

In some of my one-to-one sessions with the members of my Vistage CEO peer group I tend to start the meeting by asking what problems have arisen in the business since we last met.  This must then be followed by a celebration of what has been really successful. Starting the meeting with negative issues followed by discussion of successes can really help to put problems into perspective.

Another question to ask ourselves is why do we put so much emphasis on analysing an error that was relatively minor and then almost disregard the positive effects  and the value realised of our accomplishments?

Professor Steve Peters would say that it is the chimp (emotional) brain taking over from the human (rational) brain.  The problem is that the chimp is five times more powerful than the human so we need to work on remedies to correct the imbalance.

Simply said, in the words of the war-time song:

“Man, they said, you gotta accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative, latch on to the affirmative, don’t mess with mister in-between”.

What else do we need say.


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