I have a challenge for you. Are you up for it??

Self-improvement consists of making small, incremental changes to your thoughts and behaviour that will result in a more positive experience of life. I would like to challenge you to embrace a specific small change.

The challenge is to avoid responding with criticism for one week; just seven days.

Let me explain…

Most people spend most of their time responding to situations around them on automatic pilot. They are not choosing how best to respond, but instead respond as they always have since they were young.

This way of responding to life is okay if your responses are aligned with your values, needs and desires. However, this is usually not the case.

Judging the actions of those you work with as an example of either ‘good’ or ‘bad’, or, ‘smart’ or ‘stupid’, shifts your perception of them. If you have a negative perception about someone, you will more often see the ‘fault’ in their actions and less often see the good.

If the adage is true (which I believe it is) that ‘what you focus on grows’, then focusing on the negative is detrimental to your goal of building and supporting a team of high-performers.

My challenge to you, as I stated above, is to avoid responding with criticism.

What this means is, let the actions and behaviours that you perceive as not ideal, or that you do not like, slide by without comment or acknowledgement. Instead, I urge you to identify and praise everything that you perceive as positive or that you do like.

Look for actions that show effective teamwork, strong leadership and great customer service. Acknowledge to those around you the character traits that make them enjoyable to work with.

“Thanks for sweeping the front entrance.”

“Your encouragement of the trainee is wonderful to see.”

“Your surgery changeovers are so quick and it really helps in production.”

“Your caring nature towards patients is obvious, and it has such a positive impact on them.”

Trepidation, and even fear, may come up for you. What if this challenge means that staff will do bad things and get away with it? Where is the accountability? My answer to this is that your team will either be falling to your low expectation of them or rising to your high expectation of them. In order to rise instead of fall, you need to focus on the good and encourage the best out of them.

This challenge is an experiment. It will likely feel uncomfortable at times. But persist with it and see what the results are by the end of the week.

As you move through the week, be aware of what you are responding to. When the opportunity comes up to think a negative thought or take critical action about a certain action or behaviour, catch yourself and say the following mantra:

I have decided to ignore that which I do not want repeated.

Likewise, when you see a positive action or behaviour, your mantra is:

I have decided to acknowledge and praise that which I want repeated.

Shifting our long-instilled responses is a worthy challenge to take on. Often, it benefits not just ourselves, but everyone around us as well.