Dan and Chip Heath are the brothers that brought you the New York Times bestseller Made To Stick. They have also landed themselves a nice monthly column in Fast Company. In April they featured a story called “Your Boss is a MonkeyManaging up using the tricks of exotic-animal training”. The gist of the article is that our reactions to inappropriate behaviors are either reinforcing or neutralizing. If we don’t like what others are doing we are advised to IGNORE IT. Not the person per se, but the behavior. Eventually this will lead the person to adopt new, more appropriate strategies for getting what they want in the circus ring of life. There is only one problem with this theory, it is unrealistic and difficult to practice. Perhaps with a two year old we can do it, but a tyrannical boss or a long-winded but respected colleague will be incensed or bewildered by your odd “Vulcan” demeanor. Instead try this:

Focus on what you want more of and when you see it blow on it.¬† The best way to change a person (or a culture) is to recognize the inherent positive intent in others. That positive intent (however poorly conveyed ) is alive and well in some manner – it is up to you to blow on the delicate embers of more appropriate behavior. Acknowledge the behaviour you want more of whenever you see it, even it it is just a pale glimmer of what you long to see. In organizations we are quick to point out what bothers us about others, what we don’t like and don’t want. But if we adopt the principles of appreciative inquiry and appreciative leadership we start instead with a story about what we do want. I guarantee you will have greater connections if you fan what works as opposed to just ignore what doesn’t. It does however require your involvement in deciding what you want from the person in the first place.

For more information on appreciative leadership or to discuss bringing this powerful training program to your organization please visit my website and contact me by phone or e-mail