This is a great illustration of leadership that reminded me of a chat I had with one of my friends who used to be a drug and alcohol councilor and worked at a group home where the kids were court ordered to be there. What he said to me applies to everyone:
“There’s one thing you can count on with 100% certainty every single day in group homes like these. Every one of those kids is going to screw up, do stupid things, make life difficult, break the rules, defy authority, and be disrespectful. That’s a given.
And what’s interesting to watch is the staff that focuses their entire day chasing down each of those kids, pointing our what they did wrong, and threatening or dishing out some sort of punishment to those kids. Their days were jam packed with hyper stress each day and by the end of the day, they were, frazzled, exhausted, and hadn’t achieved anything other than the illusion of maintaining order in a group full of orderless kids.
But I don’t do that. For one thing, it makes work suck and I’m too tired and worn out to do anything after work when I approach it that way. Secondly and by far the MOST important reason is, it doesn’t do any good.
These kids aren’t stupid. They know why they’re here and they expect the world to see how “bad” they are. It’s a game of survival to them and they know how to play it very well.
But what they don’t expect is someone, especially someone in a position of authority, to catch them doing something right. It may be hard to spot at first but with a little practice you’ll find things every day. Little things like they throw away their garbage in a trash can. It may seem insignificant to 99% of the people in the world but it’s not the action of throwing the trash away that has the power, it’s the opportunity to build up a part of their mind and heart that never gets built up.
And when you continuously catch people doing things right and build on that with repetition, something begins to change in their own minds and self image. THEY start to catch themselves doing things that progress towards a brighter future and their actions follow the way they think about themselves.
They start to look for opportunities to do something right and actually DO it!
And it applies to everyone, not just kids in a group home. Your own children, your employees, your friends, your spouse, your followers, and even the authority figures in your life!
When I switched my focus to catching them doing something right, it didn’t mean that they stopped all the behavior that got them there in the first place but it did make my life a lot easier and my job 1000% more fulfilling.
And most importantly, it inspired the kids, not all of them but the ones who really wanted to create a better life, to make changes that set them on a new path that lead to a different destination other than death or prison…”
What was interesting to me was how these leadership laws and rules apply at every level of life from these kids who were at the bottom of the barrel all the way to mega successful people. The principles behind the concept of being a champion for someone and catch them doing something right accelerate not only their success, but ours as well.