Catch Someone Doing Something Right

I was recently listening to a group of young leaders talk about their organization. I was almost brought to tears listening to them talk about some of their experiences and what they would change as they thought about becoming leaders.

“I actually thought everyone hated me until I was approached about being promoted,” said one leader. “It was really crazy.”

He wasn’t the only one.

“Actually I was the same way — I never really knew if I was doing something good or bad,” she said. Every single person in the group shared the same thing — although they had great experiences with the organization, few leaders had approached them and said “good job.” Some had never heard how they were performing.

It reminded me of the classic Ken Blanchard book The One Minute Manager, which I highly recommend. In the book he tells the story of a young “manager” who visits the organization that’s run by the “One Minute Manager.” One of the mottos in the organization is simple: “Help people reach their full potential. Catch them doing something right.”

In most organizations you’ll find managers or leaders trying to catch people doing something wrong. That certainly has to happen, but what a sad way to lead people. The best organizations and the best leaders have set clear goals and directives for their people and are watching them closely — not to micromanage them or to wait until they make a mistake, but to catch them doing something right. They watch their people closely so that they can be there to celebrate and encourage them when they do something right.

And when they catch someone doing something right, they’re direct and they’re specific. Here’s what Ken Blanchard lays out as rules:

  1. Tell people right from the start that you are going to let them know how they are doing
  2. Praise people immediately
  3. Tell people what they did — be specific
  4. Tell people about how good you feel about what they did right, and how it helps the organization and the other people that work there
  5. Stop for a moment to let them “feel” how good you feel
  6. Encourage them to do more of the same

I couldn’t help but be struck by how many people at even a great organization don’t hear specifically how they’re doing a great job. I’ll be working to catch someone doing something right.

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