What’s working?

Last week I had a meeting that I’d set up with a colleague to get her perspective on how I’m doing at work.  It was a revelation.  She spent most of the meeting saying “What’s working well is…”  “What you should keep doing is…”

Seriously?  Do MORE of this??!!  That’s not how these meetings are supposed to go, is it?

No, what we all normally do is make broad, glossy, perfunctory generalizations about the good stuff and then take a deep breath and say, “And now here are all the things that you really need to get right,” while the person we’re talking to – who we like and respect and we think does great work – sits white-knuckled, ready to take the medicine.

But why do we do this? Do we really think this is how people learn and improve? It’s not like telling people all the things they’re doing wrong is any more actionable than telling them all that they’re doing right. And they’re surely doing a lot more right than they’re doing wrong, right?

I think we get confused because we’re not good at, nor are we in the habit of, giving people very specific complements. Yet we slowly, quietly practice the zinger critique ever time we walk out of a meeting, rolling our eyes, explaining to whoever will listen all we would have done differently.

It’s worth practicing. Telling people specific things that are going great will help them and you identify what’s going right, so it’s more likely to be amplified. Plus, doing this has the added pop of being so incredibly surprising that you’ll inevitably get people’s attention.

You can start with yourself, you know.

What’s going great that you want to do more of?

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