I am a big proponent of continuous improvement and the need to always improve. Unfortunately, it has brought with it a real negative. It took me 8 years of watching my two sons wrestle until I realized I had fallen victim to that negative consequence.
My youngest son had won a tournament this last year by beating the prior state champion in the finals. It was an incredible match and he wrestled impressively. As he came off the mat, I shook his hand and congratulated him…..telling him that this was the best I’d ever seen him wrestle. Then, in the next breathe, I nearly said….”BUT you look like you we running out of gas and need to do some extra running so that your stamina improves.” The kid has just wrestled the best match of his life and here the old man is thinking what he could have done better. That’s a sad commentary on what has happened to us.
Fortunately….the light bulb went on and I actually remembered the stuff I teach participants in my Execution Focused Leadership® series. I bit my tongue and let him enjoy the moment. I talk to supervisors and managers that using the “BUT” word is the “great eraser”….by using it you wipe out all the positive things you have just said. Instead what you should do is praise them and POSITIVELY REINFORCE the behavior we want, we destroy it with one simple word.
Fifteen minutes later my son asked to see the video of his match so he could see what he needed to work on. That was the right time for me to say what he needed to work on in order to continuously improve. There will always be an opportunity to look at continuous improvement in our personal and work lives. That time is not immediately after a success. Let your people enjoy an accomplishment and feel good about what they just did. Don’t take what is a positive accomplishment and wipe it out by using the great eraser…”BUT.”