By Jeff Kortes, President, Human Asset Management LLC
I am a big proponent of continuous improvement and the need to always improve. Unfortunately, it has brought with it a real negative. It eight years of watching my two sons wrestle before I realized I had fell victim to that negative consequence.
My youngest son won a tournament 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 this was the best I’d ever seen him wrestle. Then, in the next breath, I nearly said, “BUT you looked like you were running out of gas and need to do some extra running so 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 about the fact that using the “BUT” word is the “great eraser.” By using it, you wipe out all the positive things you have just said. Instead of using the moment to praise someone 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 to continuously improve. There always will 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.”
Jeff Kortes is known as the “No-Nonsense Guy” as he offers a no-nonsense, practical approach to training. He is the president of Human Asset Management LLC, a human resource consulting firm specializing in executive search, building retention, and leadership training. He has trained hundreds of first-line supervisors, managers, and executives during his career. Kortes is also a member of the National Speakers Association and a regular speaker on the topics of retention and developing a high-performance work culture. For more information, visit http://www.slugproofyourteam.com.