Bob Sutton picked up on a pertinent subject once again in bad is stronger than good. I was initially most amazed by the need for five times as many affirmations as negatives in a marriage or romantic relationship. I confess to being a grumpy husband at times. John Gottman wrote some good books and in at least one, demonstrated that he could predict marital success just by listening to whether spouses despised each other in a brief, video-taped record of a marriage interaction.
I’ve been married for 36 years so she must still be unaware of some foibles or maybe we bested the 5:1 ratio; else she would have departed long ago. So I’ll tentatively and temporarily rest on that subject and move on to organizations. (btw, don’t ever permanently rest on that one – it’s a lonely place.)
I also confess to being a grumpy boss at times. “Make your strengths productive and your weaknesses irrelevant”, quoth Peter Drucker. That’s my main take on Sutton’s excellent post. Making strengths productive neutralizes negatives as the weaknesses fade into irrelevance and strengths surge in productivity. If I’m listening my weaknesses should be pretty obvious. If I’m a part of any kind of reality-based community my followers should be handling this part.
If you’re managing and leading have you realized how hard it is sometimes to say something nice? It’s like you have cashed in your integrity or something. It is not a lie to pick out a modest strength of a staff member and make it known. Thumper got it right in Bambi… “if you can’t say somethin’ nice, don’t say nothin’ at all”. This is now known as Thumper’s Law.
We need a brand of Thumper leadership where the first impulse is to consider the positive. Sometimes it simply requires speaking change proleptically into being. That’s a method for articulating a future hope into reality that often works.
So at your next Fortune 100 c-suite meeting, just stand up and shout, “I’m with Thumper!”
And report back to this blog because we all want to hear what happened.