Friday, October 10, 2014

Whale Done, The Power of Positive Relationships - Ken Blanchard

Can we learn about the power of positive relationships from killer whales that have been trained to jump and follow instructions? Yes, of course. Ken Blanchard bases his slim little book on one great core idea that can change our relationships and empower them. 

Research Press, Rs. 195. 123 p
The venue is Shamu stadium at the Sea World, Florida where killer whales are performing amazing feats for an enthralled audience. Wes Kingsley, a corporate manager with a disgruntled team, is sitting in the audience, wondering how anyone can do that to whales when he cannot get his team to perform their jobs happily. He meets the trainers to find out.

The trainers tell him that Shamu is one of their teachers. An eleven thousand pound killer whale who does not speak English can teach a lot say the trainers. Obviously our toughest customers are our biggest teachers. Then they tell him how to go about training them to perform. 

First you got to be patient. Then build trust. To build trust  convince them that you mean no harm. 

How do we build trust, asks Wes.

"Accentuate the positive." 
Those are the magic words to all positive relationships.

Ok, but what if they do something wrong which they are bound to?
When the whales do something wrong, the trainers ignore the mistake and redirect their energies elsewhere. 

The key is this - more attention you pay to a behavior the more it will be repeated. When we don't pay a lot of attention to what they do wrong and instead give lots of attention to what they do right, they do the right thing more often.

Redirecting is all about energy management. Sometimes we give them another chance to do it right and sometimes we direct them to do something else that we want him to do, and that he or she likes to do as well. 

Annie Marie, the business consultant, makes them do this exercise -  first meeting people around them as if they are not important and then, meeting them as if they were long-lost friends. It was an energy management exercise. Focusing on the positive (or rather, the most positive aspect of any situation). 

The ABCs of performance are - Activator (whatever gets the performance going), B (behavior that gets the performance going) and C - Consequence or your response to the performance. In classic business parlance it would be A) goals or targets, B) work done and C) your response to work done.

Activators are goals. Goals must be common and spelt out, else there will be conflict (exercise - have people in a team list out their goals and see if they are common). Set clear goals. If they don't know what their goals are how will they do it?

Then, observe the behaviors. This is critical.

Then come to the most important part - C. When people perform they get nothing. When they fail, they get chewed. The key is to observe and accentuate the positive when they make progress. (To start with stop accentuating the negative and what they did not do right which is a huge step forward for you. Shut up!)

The 4 responses are No response, Negative response, Redirection and Positive response. 

Redirection is about redirecting the energy from one area to a better way, while expressing continuing trust and confidence in the person. The steps to redirect are - describe error without blame as soon as possible. show negative impact, go over task in detail and make sure its clearly understood and express continuing trust and confidence in person. 

Don't wait for the perfect behavior. Praise progress, its a moving target. 

Positive responses or whale done responses are given below:
  • Praise people immediately upon noticing progress. 
  • Be specific about what they did right or almost right 
  • Share your positive feelings about what they did. 
  • Encourage them to keep up the good work. 

Attention is like sunshine to humans - whatever we give attention to, grows. When things are going well and we don't respond, we are losing a great opportunity to motivate. When things are going well, say something positive. Everyone is wearing a big sign that says 'Catch me doing something positive'. 

Good management is to influence people to do the good thing when you're not around. They start having fun and giving themselves whale dones. Make them catch themselves doing the right things. 

When dealing with people, never assume that you know what motivates a person. Individuals are motivated by different things. What motivates one may not motivate another. With people you can ask them what motivates them in the short and long term and then reward them accordingly. Be sincere and honest.

I love the core idea that we rarely praise ourselves for doing anything right. To begin with I'd like to make a list of all the things I did right in my life and pat myself on my back for that. And then I'd make a list of all the things I did right today, everyday and praise myself for that. Give myself a Whale Done. Now having sufficiently taken care of myself, I'd turn my attention to all the people around me who have been getting no praise from me when they are doing anything right - especially the ones who are struggling. I will start accentuating the progress, the positives. When they go wrong I will redirect their energies (as we do with little children), ignore the mistake and accentuate the positive in what I want them to do. It needs work, real love and genuine caring to do that of course. 

I do feel that this book has that one brilliant idea that we can all adopt straight away into our lives and start off great, positive relationships. Start catching people doing things right, accentuate the positives and voila, you have grown people.

Even as corporate managers or leaders, this is the key. To grow people you need to reinforce the good they have done, give them confidence. Say it like it is, don't overdo praise. But don't hold back and wait for them to fail or make a mistake so you can catch them. 

Thanks Ken Blanchard for a wonderful idea.

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