Changing the Rules

Changing the Rules

About 2 weeks ago I realized that my kids didn’t know about Slug Bug.  For those of you that may not know this game, you keep your eyes open for Volkswagen Beetles and the first person to see one punches your arm and says “Slug Bug Green” (insert appropriate color).

My 7 year old son was excited about the game but didn’t understand why I was slugging his arm.  So we decided – for our family – that it is “Love Bug” versus “Slug Bug”.  When you see a Beetle you say Love Bug xyz color and then pucker up and blow a kiss to someone.   It was simple to change the game to be a positive action versus a negative one and it got me thinking a little bit broader.

Changing the Rules at Work

Why can’t we do the same thing at work?  Why are there 5 times more opportunities to provide negative feedback as there are for positive?

An example from my life:

I remember my first annual performance review.  I was nervous, worried about what they’d have to say and had wrestled my courage out of my backside and was prepared to hear the worst – without crying dang it!     But then it didn’t happen.  The review I mean.  A month went by, no review.  Two months, six months, a  year later and still no review.  Then one day my supervisor said “Hey, let’s plan on having your review next week.”

And guess what?  The reason he asked to have a review was because I was no longer performing as well as I had in the past.  Until that point there wasn’t any need to do a review because everything was copacetic.  When there was something that needed “fixing” a review was given.

I’ve compared notes with other people in other firms and they often have similar experiences.  Even if things are going well, the supervisor feels obligated to find something that could use improvement – even if reaching for straws – because that feels like part of their job.

Here’s why I propose changing the rules:

It is easier to succeed when you are told what to do, rather than when told what to stop doing.

Here are some examples of changing the slant/words:

  • You need a better attitude.   vs.
  • You are so approachable when you smile.  You should try smiling more often.
  • You are always late to meetings.  vs.
  • When you arrive at meetings on time, they are much more productive with less wasted time.
  • Your grammar and punctuation are horrible.  vs.
  • Pay attention to your grammar and punctuation.  Do an extra read through when you are done writing with your focus for this read through only on grammar and punctuation.
  • You are dictatorial.  vs.
  • Try phrasing your statement as a question, it will be the same point, but come across softer.

This works well with kids too:

  • Stop being mean.  vs.
  • Please include your sister in that game.
  • Stop fidgeting.  vs.
  • Sit still.
  • Don’t be rude.  vs.
  • Say Please and Thank You.
  • Stop screaming.  vs.
  • Use your inside voice.

Why is this approach better?

If you just say what not to do, there is a void where the person is floundering trying to figure out what they should be doing instead.  They may have to try 4 or 5 different things – none of which meet your expectations – before they land on the behavior you were hoping for.  This is true of adults and kids.

Try it and see how you like the results.  Maybe even try on your spouse.

  • You never cook dinner.  vs.  I love that pasta dish you make.  Would you make it this week?

Can you think of other examples either at work or home?


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