The you are picking on me justification engine…

I got a great email yesterday from a former student. Not of one of the many architecture classes I’ve taught over the years, a former student from when I was a 2nd grade teacher. I still have a few kids that well aren’t kids anymore but they remember me as a teacher and still communicate with me. This former student reminded me of Mr. A’s rule. Start off with what you did well and then talk about what you didn’t do as well.

Frankly that rule would have worked in yesterday’s blog. It is really hard in an organization to deal with negative only. Positive comments even if they are as simple as you did a good job right there are useful. If you are managing someone out of an organization you have to be really careful what you say. That is understood. But you can’t create a toxic environment for everyone.

There has to be a balance a yin and yang. Start off with the positive before the negative. When I was teaching many years ago the principle often put students new to the school in my classroom. I was really good at building a team. Teams can easily accept new members (as long as they are not near a crunch time). Good teams can absorbed new members very quickly. I used to in my classroom build good teams.

I’ve done the same as a manager. It isn’t easy. There have been difficult situations that as a manager I wasn’t happy about. But you learn to move past those moments. Fear isn’t encouraging it is actually eventually disabling.

The other thing my former student remind me of was walking through the halls of the school. We used to make it a contest. If they were quiet in the halls all week and didn’t disturb the other classes I would provide a reward on Friday. Whatever that was, 5 extra minutes of recess or the kids favorite free reading time. Free reading time back in the days of the Pizza Hut Book IT program meant they would be closer to a pizza party.

Encourage. Enable. Empower. All words that describe a style of leadership that is often lacking and sorely missed. Smart people will figure it out and come back with more, if you enable them to do more in the first place. If you stick people in a box, and expect them to figure the maze out, without seeing the maze you will be disappointed.

The goal of management has to be the success of the employees. Which by the way is the natural goal of teachers. They don’t have the luxury of firing students at the beginning of the quarter (I am sorry you are not cut out for 3rd grade). We need to move a little closer to the model of building people up and letting them have a chance to succeed. Find something nice to say.

It was nice to hear from a former student. They also reminded me that sometimes you do have to say “you did that wrong.” It is a balance that the person receiving the crisis has to feel there was some positive on your side, otherwise the negative goes right into the “they are picking on me” justification engine. That isn’t a 500 horsepower V8 engine when you get there. It is a V64 50000 horsepower engine that can turn anything into your fault not mine. The personal justification engine is one not to have your employees invoke. It does you no good and in the end you face a lot of justification and no functional anything.


former teacher