Personal Development

The Magic of Building on Strength: An Almost Too-Good To Be True Story

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A friend of mine recently told me the story of an experience she had which she claims changed the way she sees personal and community transformation.

It started with an office managed for the longest time by a very kind individual. Unfortunately, this individual’s management style was based on kindly and lovingly pointing out mistakes which he hoped would guide his employees towards areas they needed to improve. But although he never raised his voice, was always gentle, and was considered a good friend to many of the staff members, he always ended up demoralizing them. And so, despite the potential of her small office involved in an exciting field constantly pushing the boundaries, my friend’s workplace was depressing with no employee stayed for more than a couple of years.

My friend was also considering leaving. She kept hesitating, like so many of her colleagues did, because everything seemed so amazing in her office; the manager brought in daily treats, they held spontaneous social events, they have flexible schedules the kind parents dream of, they were even allowed to work from home—in short, other than the manager’s approach, they had everything a dream job seems to be made of.

Then the manager went on a one month training of sorts. When he came back, he started doing something different. Instead of pointing out what people were doing wrong, he would point out what they were doing right, placing it in the context of the goals of the company, and helping them determine what the next step should be. Sometimes the step was minuscule; sometimes it was huge; it always came from the employee and as long as it was a step forward, the manager was happy.

You have probably guessed what happened next. Everyone in the office became on fire because everything they were doing was right. The manager was even able to push them harder because he was building on strength using the simplest of questions: what’s next? My friend mentioned that employees would even take on challenges beyond what they had thought themselves capable of doing.

While the specific conditions of this story are hard to replicate in our communities—be they our neighborhoods, our classrooms, our workplaces, or other—there is one place we have complete control over: our minds. What would happen if, on a daily basis, we would identify what we did right and then take a small step ahead? And what would happen if this pattern of thought imbibed our interpersonal relationships?

Image courtesy of Chad Mauger.

First published on Sahar’s Blog on 23 June 2015.

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