Harry Potter Reminded Me of a Lesson

Some time ago, I recall going to Amazon.com to see what kind of reviews J.K. Rowling was getting for her Harry Potter books. Most of the reviews were rave, but some of the reviews expressed disappointment and were critical. I read through a bunch of these reviews and I realized something…something that hits me almost every day.

It’s perfectly all right to be critical, but some folks criticize simply because they feel compelled to do so. Sometimes a co-worker or friend or spouse offers “constructive” criticism and even then it doesn’t always come across very well.

I think there are two basic ways to approach people. You can make less of them or you can make “more” of them. It’s not very difficult to make less of someone: you simply point out their flaws and weaknesses. You can do this to their face or behind their back. You can do it overtly or covertly. But the net effect of all of this chatter about someone’s faults and shortcomings is you’ve simply made less of them. Do this long and hard enough and there will be “less” of that person.

To make “more” of someone is not always as easy and sometimes requires a bit of patience. But you’re essentially emphasizing what’s right about the person: their decisions, their actions, even their appearance. I’m not talking about insincere flattery here, I’m talking about acknowledging a person when they’ve done something well, when they’ve demonstrated competence, when they’ve worked a bit harder or longer than usual. Even in the small things, this kind of acknowledgement can go a long way.

When an employer is sure that a particular staff member is not going to perform well, you’ve pretty much cinched the deal: that staff member is not likely to perform well. Isn’t it up to that staff member to perform no matter what, to deliver the goods regardless of what other people think? Yes…and no. Your intention that this staff member WILL perform well, WILL get better at it, WILL be a real asset to your business—YOUR intention here can play an enormous role.

It’s all about making MORE of someone so that at the end of the day there is MORE of that person there. Because that route leads to increased willingness to get the job done, increased competence and an increased ability to take the losses in stride. Continuously making “less” of someone heads in the wrong direction.

Once again, I’ll add the disclaimer here that I’m not talking about ignoring completely someone’s errors or mistakes in the workplace. I’m not talking about taking an airy-fairy view of people. I’m talking about an approach to people (employees, co-workers, friends and spouses) that will bring you an improved scene. You are essentially putting yourself in the position of creating an environment of willingness and competence instead of slowly eroding what willingness and competence was already there.

It’s not always easy, but concentrating on one approach will start the ball in the right direction.

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