I’ve picked up a few ways of working over the years. Some have come from classic management books I have read, some from observation of others and many just from knowing what works for me. I still sometimes use Covey’s “Urgent-Important” matrix to help make sure I’m doing the right thing each day- and David Allen’s “Getting things done” is a masterclass in how to organise yourself.
Whatever the techniques we use for getting through the workload, there is one attitude and one instinct I observe in nearly all strong leaders. They move things forward and they stay positive. This makes them encouraging, positive people to be around as they shirk off negative issues and quickly retain a positive drive.
One application of this is to have in mind that positive feedback; encouragement, praise, spotting improvement is often much more likely to lead to success than criticism. We can be fixated on the need to hold “the difficult conversation” and ensure that people receive constructive criticism. Often this can simply draw attention to failings and demotivates when actually an uplifting (genuine) positive conversation is much more likely to be successful.
I think we spot this with our children. I’m sure most parents have caught themselves giving a stream of negative sentences. “Hurry up”, “Don’t do that”, “Don’t forget …”. It doesn’t really work – you get the same behaviour the following morning. Often the recipient comes to rely on your catching of failings and often the recipient is left deflated. (I still do it of course!)
Think how you personally work when you are trying to achieve something significant. Take the example of a big fitness/physical goal. You look for positives. You build up your stamina and speed, you join a club where others run/ride and love doing it, you treat yourself to a new bit of kit, you focus on the positive feeling you have when you have completed a training session. You remind yourself that just the first 10 minutes are tough when you need to train in the winter. Instinctively you avoid the negative. When completing the task you force away the doubts and the negative thoughts (the head wind, ache in your knee, the cold) because they are of no use to you. You may observe some beforehand and prepare for them but staying positive is crucial when you come to tackle the objective.
I believe this positivity is something to have in mind when we focus on managing people. I’m not recommending false positivity – that is horrid. But a genuine positive mindset which spots where people are doing well, encourages them, spots opportunities for additional achievement and is uplifting has got to be better than pointing out the negative. Yes performance appraisal requires some balance but the aim of appraisal should be to improve performance – and a positive approach is most successful at achieving that.