7 Things to Say When You Catch Someone Doing Something (Nearly) Right

by Jennifer Miller on March 7, 2016

in Communication, Leadership


Last week, I had the privilege of interviewing best-selling author and speaker Ken Blanchard. Last year Blanchard and co-author Spencer Johnson issued a revised version of their management classic The One Minute Manager. Titled The New One Minute Manager, the parable was tweaked to reflect the realities of today’s workplace.

When we talked, I asked Blanchard about the staying power of the concepts in the book. He said of all the concepts taught in the book, he would choose this one above all others:

If someone said to me, “Blanchard, if I were to take away everything that you have ever taught in over 40 years except for one thing, what would you hold on to?”

I would hold onto “catch people doing something right.” The key to developing relationships and creating [successful] organizations is to accentuate the positive.

Keep in mind that the original book was published in 1982, before we had access to all of the research associated with positive psychology. Over the years, “catch people doing something right” has become a well-known phrase in Blanchard’s lexicon.

I’m reminded of my role as both organizational leader and parent: sometimes it’s important to catch people doing something (nearly) right. If we decide that “right” = “perfection” then we lose many opportunities to conduct encouraging conversations with people. As Blanchard reminded me, the foundation of managing (and parenting) well is being skilled at conversation with those you lead.

Here are seven phrases to use with a team member (or kid) who needs encouragement:

  1. I can see you are giving this your best effort. How can I help support you?
  2. You seem disappointed in the outcome. Want to talk about it?
  3. I know you will succeed.
  4. What would you do if you had to do it again? What would you change?
  5. It was exciting to watch you reach beyond your comfort zone. How did you feel about it?
  6. I have faith in you.
  7. You’ve got this.

Remember that people are trying to do the best that they can, given their current circumstances. (Well, most of them are, anyways.) Even if what you see falls short of your expectations, find a positive element. It will keep you moving forward on the path towards improvement rather than falling into the rabbit hole of “what they did wrong.”


Copyright: wavebreakmediamicro / 123RF Stock Photo


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