As leaders (and as humans) we have high standards and a clear vision for what we want to achieve, so it can be easy for us to notice what’s not going right.

What we focus on determines what we get. It’s a mistake to focus on what’s not going well, or behaviour in others we don’t like, because that’s what we will find!

Marshall Goldsmith (author of ‘What got you here won’t get you there’ and numerous other books on leadership) advises coaches to carefully consider taking on remedial executive coaching. He suggests this could be a fast route to failure if the CEO who hires you is still looking for evidence of the ‘bad’ behaviours in your coachee!

What happens when we focus on what’s going well and on the behaviours we want to encourage in ourselves and others?

Recently I attended school to see my five-year-old daughter receive a certificate at assembly. ‘This junior school award is awarded for her new found confidence in sharing during group time.’

At some point during the term, all students are recognised for something. A critical role of the teacher is to recognise that special characteristic in each child to be encouraged. Parenting expert, Psychologist Alan Kazdin, describes this ‘catching children being good’.

When we want to encourage a particular behaviour, we need to identify and reward that. In their book ‘Switch’, Chip and Dan Heath talk about ‘approximations’. Animal trainers set a behavioural destination, and then reward ‘approximations’ – tiny steps on the way to the desired behaviour. (Think of teaching a dolphin to dive through a hoop…)

Leading positive change in others and ourselves is a critical role of leadership. What can we learn from the concept of approximations to focus on the change we want?

Criticism is too easy. Stop! Notice and encourage small ‘approximations’ of the behaviour you want. Reinforcement is the first step on a longer journey of change.

If what you focus on determines what you get, what will you choose to focus on today? Share your comments below.

Have an Extraordinary day


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