Accentuate the Positive, Tweak the Negative

Have you ever worked for a person that seemed to find negativity in everything?  You know the one: you and your team fight tirelessly to reach a goal or solve an issue and just as you start celebrating your success, in walks the boss with a “Great job, but…” And then seems bent on explaining how you could have done it better, or why it should have been done another way. 

Nothing will sap the energy of a team quicker than its leader not recognizing the positive things they have accomplished!

Don’t get me wrong…there are times when negative messages must be presented.  They should, however, be the exception and not the norm if you expect your team to move in a positive direction.

Leaders who are prone to finding fault or who constantly point out a “better way” of doing things think they are helping their team members improve.  What they fail to realize is they shape a negative culture by projecting constant negative expectations.

If the leader sees success and fails to show gratitude and praise or laces it with negativity, the workers become disingenuous and disengaged.  After all, why excel if only faults are pointed out to you after you have given it your all?!

The best leaders build momentum by presenting positive messages more than negative ones.  They understand that praising people for seemingly insignificant tasks done well will lead to confidence to accomplish bigger things.

So, how do you accentuate the positive and only tweak the negative?

Let’s say you have an employee who has restocked the glass cleaner in your store.  You walk up as they are just about to finish and you notice they took down the overflow stock, packed the shelves, and ensured the price is correct. 

The surest way to reinforce that behavior is to immediately acknowledge what they have done by thanking them and praising their efforts.  Point out how great the packed shelves of glass cleaner look and how this will appeal to the customers.

Even if you notice some minor errors, such as one of the bottles facing a different direction than all the others, refrain from pointing this out.  Remember, you just walked around the corner and into the cleaning aisle as the employee was finishing.  You don’t know if they are aware of the bottle and plan to turn it to align with the others as soon as you leave. 

Granted, you could make their 95% great job 100% by pointing it out and turning the bottle around right then.  But, in so doing, it may deflate the employee enough that next time they will simply ignore the empty shelves.  That 95% great job just turned into 0% effort!

The point is, if you are the type of leader that drains your team by constantly overlooking what they have done right, they will soon give up trying at all.

Try a little experiment – see if you can give out at least ten positive messages for every one negative.  With a little self-awareness in how you communicate to your team, you should start forming a great habit within a week.  In less than a month, your team will respond with positive work as they have noticed the change in you!

If your employee continues to display one of the glass cleaners backwards, address it after you have given them at least ten positive messages about their performance.  They will be open to accepting the criticism and more likely to change their behavior.

By accentuating the positive and tweaking the negative, you will build a culture of employees who are excited to be there and more willing to go above and beyond to please their leader – you! 


Published by Bryan Etters

Hi! I am a servant leader determined to help leaders grow and develop their personal and professional leadership skills. I am a retired military member with over 20 years of leadership experience in both the military and business worlds. I am determined to help you lead!

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