Another thing Ken Blanchard said in his keynote: “One thing to remember about praising is, don’t wait for exactly the right behavior before you praise anybody.  If you do, you might wait forever.  Exactly the right behavior is made up of a whole series of approximately right behaviors.

He went on to give the example of teaching a child how to talk.  “Suppose you wanted your kid to say, ‘Get me a glass of water, please.’  The kid has never spoken before.  If you wait for that full sentence before you give the kid any water, what have you got?  You have a dead, dehydrated kid.  We just holler, ‘Water, water,” and one day the kid says, ‘Lauler, lauler.’  ‘My God, it’s his first word.  Get grandmother on the phone!’  That wasn’t water, but it wasn’t bad.  You don’t want him at age 21 going into restaurants asking for ‘lauler’, so after a while you accept only ‘water.’  Then you move on to ‘please.”

I think we follow Blanchard’s mantra with children, but we aren’t always good at it with ourselves or with employees.  Wouldn’t we be better off it we gave ourselves credit for walking 8,000 steps today instead of lamenting that we didn’t reach the magical 10K?  Could we do more to applaud the employee who had the courage to draft a proposal, instead of first critiquing the changes that need to be made?  Should we applaud the dozen phone calls that were made instead of asking about the one that wasn’t?

Be on the look out today for “approximately right” behaviors and give praise to those who are making progress.

— beth triplett

Ken Blanchard, Keynote Address, ACU-I Conference, 1985

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