Monday, November 12, 2012

Football Season

We are deep into football season, and it makes me think about how a coach gets the best performance from a player.  The coach sits down and reviews the actions and decisions of that player, sometimes with the help of film, reinforcing effective moves while suggesting more work in weaker areas.  Perhaps he was good at pass defense but poor at tackling.  The more specific the coach can be on improving tackling technique, the better the chance for improvement.

Likewise a good manager giving performance feedback aims for improvement by giving specific positive and negative behavioral examples from personal observations.  Perhaps the employee does excellent presentations, well organized and well delivered, but struggles with follow-up questions.  In this case the manager may observe that it’s not so much being surprised by the questions as it is of answering anticipated questions rather than the one actually asked.  This is not a problem of organization or preparation, but a problem of listening.  If the manager has other examples where poor listening has affected the employee’s performance, they work together to improve it.

How do you assess and improve an entire society or culture?  I contend that it’s by exactly the same process.  As the football coach gathered examples to show how most problems occurred in the category of tackling rather than pass defense, and the manager found examples to show a need for improvement in the dimension of listening, I look for examples of problematic (and positive) behavior and classify that behavior into the five key dimensions.  By improving behavior in these areas we will improve the outcomes within our society.

The blogs I write each Monday and Friday serve multiple purposes.  They show examples of weakness in a dimension that lead to overall poor performance and undesirable outcomes.  They demonstrate how to categorize individual behaviors into a dimension, so that many different behaviors can be easily condensed into these five categories.  The examples are of behavior and don’t attack anyone – questioning or criticizing the action, not the actor.  Finally, they often give direction toward the solution to our societal problems – when the undesirable action or decision is presented, the best way to avoid unwanted consequences is to stop that behavior and possibly replace it with its opposite.  If retirement is in jeopardy because people are saving too little while spending on the wrong things, stop wasting money and start saving more.

It’s not rocket science, but it is a unique way of thinking about how to get America headed in the right direction, far different from the ways prescribed by our current set of politicians and pundits.  

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