The media is filled with stories of people being awful to each other, and you’d swear we live in an anti-social dystopia.
These stories are true, but they are not representative.
How I was able to recognize awesome
This weekend in Windsor, California I was able to recognize awesome. I was doing a recon for our Veteran’s Day Saber Six Foundation event and participating in a charity cycling ride.
I packed my bicycle in a special suitcase, loaded it onto the plane, and hoped for the best. It arrived intact, but I had difficulty getting the rear wheel back on. It was time for expert help.
I met Ben at the Windsor bike shop. It was a busy day, and he could have told me to come back another time. Instead, he took the bike behind the counter and showed me an easier way to install the rear wheel. He noticed that a part was slightly bent, took out a special tool, and fixed that problem.
Ben asked me about the Fallen Hero Honor Ride, and another customer, Dean, listened. When Ben finished fixing the bicycle, I asked him for the bill. Dean said he’d take care of it.
Why it matters
What you look for tends to be what you see. It’s not hard to find anti-social behavior, rudeness, and entitlement.
Our minds are tuned to detect problems, aberrations, and deviant behavior, so these issues stand out while kindness, generosity, consideration, and other goodness blend in the background.
Your leadership antennae are more tuned to identifying problems than seeing awesome. This helps explain why we tend to give detailed negative feedback but only generalized, positive assessments.
The problem is that people see the generalized positives as empty praise, which damages your relationship.
Make a deliberate effort to notice the positive too, and give your employees as much or more positive, actionable feedback as constructive criticism.
“Thank you, Ben, for taking the time from your busy day to help that customer. You’ve made him better by showing him an easier way to install the back wheel. Your attention to detail identified a bent component, and your expert use of the tool got it back in shape without breaking. I appreciate how you treat customers in need.”
You’ll find that positive reinforcement is a powerful ally because people will know what you value highly, and they’ll appreciate that you notice awesome.