I have started a new daily ritual, which involves, among other things, spending some time and effort to list out two or three things every day for which I am grateful. It is an interesting discipline and one which I would recommend.
It trains the brain to think in a certain way and because I am obliged to ‘think in ink’, or to write this stuff down, the impact is greater than an act of simple reflection. The daily repetition is interesting too. I have found that it has become a little repetitious to write down every day that I am grateful for my health, and the health of the people around me and all the usual stuff.
One of the things I have noticed recently is the number of times I have listed the things I have done wrong, the things I have messed up, the embarrassments and the reprimands and tellings off I have had as the things for which I am grateful.
I don’t know about you but I don’t like getting things wrong. I certainly don’t like my failures being pointed out to me and I have never enjoyed being told off. I never have done and over the years this has always been a challenge for me. To this day I will beat myself up about the one thing that wasn’t quite perfect in a day that might otherwise have been brilliant. As a boss I will bang on about the one that got away to the point of ignoring the many that we landed. As a parent I will focus on the one C grade at the expense of the many A and B grades. It is just the way I am wired. I am not particularly proud of it but it is what it is; so I am very surprised that I am now so grateful for so many of those cringeworthy episodes in my own past.
I remember some of the great embarrassments and tellings off of the past with true gratitude, if not pleasure. I realise that the real value of those times were not in the discomfort that they inevitably provided but in the opportunity to learn; to learn from my own mistakes and the opportunity to do something different next time.
There are one or two occasions that come to mind where I am struck by how skilful my leader or boss was to deliver a truly effective ‘reprimand’ as they call it in ‘The One Minute Manager’ in such a way that kept my mind open enough to learn the lessons that needed to be learned.
I realise now that balling and shouting is all too easy, but often pretty ineffective. The purpose of a reprimand is to cause different, more useful, behaviour next time and to have that effect it must be delivered skilfully and sensitively and in a way that is appropriate for the listener. Which also means that one size does not fit everyone. Flexibility is the key.
When done well, a well-structured reprimand can have a massive impact. When executed badly it can be totally ineffective and sometimes damaging. As people, we are fairly simple beings. I believe that we react well to a pat on the back when we have done well and we also expect to be ‘pulled’ when we have messed up or behaved badly. There is a balance and neglecting either makes the other less effective too. If people are behaving inappropriately, or not doing a good job, and we are not commenting or correcting them, what we are actually saying is that it isn’t important: that we don’t care, and if we don’t care, why should they?
So I am grateful for all of those very skilful, very effective reprimands that I have had in the past and for the courage and precision that their deliverers have shown. Being able to develop team members is hugely important, to the team, the enterprise and the individual and it cannot be done without the ability to reprimand effectively.
For any aspiring leader I would suggest that learning how to deliver a reprimand in an appropriate, straightforward and helpful manner would be a skill that is worth the time and effort to develop. There is no better place to start than with your coach or by reading ‘The One Minute Manager’ by Ken Blanchard. This skinny book is an ocean deep in wisdom and the section on ‘The One Minute Reprimand’ or ‘The One Minute Re-direct’ as it is called in the latest edition should be essential reading for any manager.
Learn and practice the skills for this important part of your job. Who knows who will be grateful for your efforts in years to come.