In a leadership role many people focus on the unwanted behaviors they notice, incorrectly believing that by pointing them out, people will change to what may be considered more desirable.
Yet, this type of language also violates Communication Sin #1, a Lack of Specificity as it fails to communicate the preferred behavior. It also causes the subject to whom we are speaking to focus even more on that undesirable behavior. In human behavior where our focus goes, grows.
It’s how our mind works as:
1) It does not process or accept the negative directive, it basically skips past it,
2) It only recognizes the subject of the sentence
For example: Don’t miss this Friday’s upcoming deadline!
In hearing that directive, our mind recognizes and remembers only, “miss this Friday’s deadline.”
Another way to understand this is to try not to think of something, such as, “Do not think of a pink elephant.”
Hearing that statement causes your mind to first to create a pink elephant. Most people will instantly move away from the pink elephant to an image of some other colorful animal.
When I do this exercise in a keynote address or workshop no one ever gets the image I want them to create in their mind, which is often a green giraffe. The reason is that I set them up for failure by not communicating the desirable image I’m looking for.
The same thing happens when business leaders communicate undesirable behaviors to employees. Its imperative business leaders begin to transform the undesirable behaviors they wish to change and begin communicating the specific, desirable behaviors that will fulfill their desired performance expectations.
’til next time, make this week a week of specific communication!