“You always get more of what you focus on!
This fundamental management principle seems to have “popped up” a lot recently. The late Rita Pierson, a well-known educator in her presentation “Every Kid Needs a Champion” tells the story of a young fellow who took a math quiz. Out of twenty questions, he got eighteen wrong. At the top of his paper, she wrote “Plus Two” and drew a smiley face. When he received his paper, he approached her desk, the dialog went something like this:
“Ms. Pierson, is this an ‘F’?”
“Then why’d you write plus two and draw a smiley face?!”
“Because you got two right! You didn’t miss ‘em all! You are on the way! And won’t you do better next time…”
He left the conversation encouraged and enthused, focused on the “two right” and the fact that his teacher had confidence in him. She points out that “eighteen wrong sucks the life out of you… plus two says “I ain’t all bad.’”
So how does this apply to communication? I think in two ways: what we talk about and how we talk about it? Eleanor Roosevelt said, “”Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.” Obviously, there are times when each of those things bears conversation—but what is our focus? To apply this to our Grange, what are we discussing during our potluck suppers and meetings? I was at a supper once where two or three people dominated the conversation with their personal misfortunes and everything that was wrong with the organization, including the fact they weren’t getting new members. “Nobody has time… people aren’t interested in… it’s the Internet!” With that focus, will they? “Eighteen wrong sucks the life out of you.”
Some years ago when I was doing organizational consulting, I led a project team challenged to increase employee retention at a client company. People would work one day and quit. The company was actually having trouble maintaining production because they were worried about how many employees wouldn’t show up. They proudly displayed and shared all of the steps they had taken to resolve the problem including “exit interviews” with employees who quit. “Why are you leaving?” It was interesting data, but “You get more of what you focus on!” So we turned things upside down. One of our first recommendations was that we interview employees who had been with the company and ask what kept them there. We did some things that at first seemed crazy, but we knew we had to change the focus. We outlawed talking about absenteeism and posted the number present in the cafeteria every morning–not the number absent. We required supervisors to stand by the door at the end of the day and say goodnight to their employees and “see you tomorrow.” These are just a few examples. It worked.
Much like Ms. Pierson, if we’re going to talk about that quiz (the what), let’s focus on what was right (the how). There’s a big difference between trying to get less wrong and trying to get more right. If we’re going to talk about attendance, let’s focus on how many are present. If we’re going to talk about our Grange, let’s talk about the good stuff.
I’m challenging members to get behind a “Plus Two” drive which means we focus on what we’re doing right – no matter how insignificant it might seem to us—and submit reports and photos to the website. We have a few members (Granges) who do so dependably – our “Plus Two.” (I haven’t counted, but it’s more than two!) If you have a well-attended public supper, get somebody to snap a photo and submit it to the site. If your Grange does a community service project, tell us about it. If you get a repair done to your hall, share the news! When you take in new members, take a photo of them and send their names. If you need some help with ideas or writing, let me know!
The codfish lays ten thousand eggs,
The homely hen lays one.
The codfish never cackles
To tell you what she’s done.
And so we scorn the codfish,
While the humble hen we prize,
Which only goes to show you
That it pays to advertise.
Rita Pierson’s presentation is a TED Talk … I consider it a “must see” for teachers, parents–anyone who works with children! But it has application in all of life. You can watch the entire presentation on my website. It’s potentially life-changing and takes less than eight minutes!