As a management consultant, oftentimes my job is to identify the key issues, determine the root causes, and provide solutions. We do a lot of strategy work, we conduct many research projects, and we train and train and train our clients. However, improvement usually involves pointing out what needs to be done differently, better, or more or less frequently in order to achieve the best outcomes possible.
I’ll never forget the first project that I led well over 20 years ago. My boss congratulated me on the great work. And then he said: Ed, when you’re pointing out everything that needs to improve, make sure you’re balancing it with what’s done well. Even when people need to change, they want to feel good about the things they’re doing that need to continue.
Is not that the tone of the report was negative. It’s just that there was no balance. I was pointing out what needed to be improved to try to achieve the best outcomes, but they also need to know what they’re doing great – that which needs to continue to achieve the best outcomes.
So, when you’re working with a customer, along with sharing details about what they need to do differently, praise them for what they already did well: You’ve done great managing this effort on your own. Now, to make sure that you’re even more successful, here is how we suggest starting to change things for the future.
When you’re talking to a co-worker, if they’ve given you incomplete information, show what else you need, but thank them for what they already provided: There’s some great information on this form! I just need a few more items so that we can move forward.
And when you’re speaking to yourself, make sure all the self-talk isn’t critical on what you did wrong and what you need to improve. Give yourself the occasional pat on the back for what you did right: That was a great call! I really got along well with the client, we were both pleased with how it ended and what the next steps were, and I could tell they were very comfortable, very confident, and they felt really good, too!
When you’re trying to improve, make sure you are clearly stating what’s already working well and what needs to continue so that improvement can be done from a positive perspective.
Identify what needs to be done better or differently, but do it in a way that brings out the best.
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