Focus on your strengths
A principle of my coaching work is to encourage people to focus on their strengths rather than wasting energy attempting to correct their weaknesses. After all, if you're 30, 40 or 50 something and you've always been poor at one activity it's unlikely you're going to become expert at it now. On the other hand, investing in further improvement of the things you already do brilliantly well, and more importantly, really enjoy, is likely to yield a much larger dividend.
Now, despite knowing this and coaching the principle to many clients over the last decade I found out this week why the theory is so much easier than the practice. We ran an event two weeks ago, "Marketing LIVE" which was attended by 92 people, most of whom completed our feedback forms. Now despite an average score of 9.1 out of 10 for the event I found myself drawn to the two people who scored us 4 and 5 respectively. I've been agonising over these scores, wondering how we went wrong, trying to see how we could have done better and in the end it took a colleague to remind me of my own words to cause this unhelpful fixation to cease.
Why are we so drawn to the negative? What is it about human nature that we spend more time focusing on our failures than on our successes?
I think the problem starts at school where our reports (well mine anyway) cause parents to focus on the D,E & F grades rather than on the A's & B's. When my Maths teacher wrote "his ignorance of the subject is almost complete" and my art teacher wrote "whilst he will always struggle at this subject it is unfair to describe him as completely hopeless" (both comments made when I was 8 years old) I'm sure they thought this might somehow cause me to focus more or to work harder but actually it had the reverse effect. Similarly when performance reviews are carried out at work how much time is spent praising accomplishments compared to discussing "issues"?
I truly believe that "catching people doing things right" is the most direct route to improved performance, and anyway, it's so much more fun for all concerned.