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A few years ago the organisation I was working for ran a development programme based on the book ‘Whale Done’. The basic concept is that you can’t train a two-tonne Killer Whale by chastising it, but you can by offering praise and reward for positive behaviours.

At the time this made perfect sense and I tried to apply it within my management style.

Recently, my son decided to sign up for a local football team. Being a keen footballer for a long time I wanted to help out as much as I could so after a while I signed up to be a coach for the team.

Like most 10 year olds, behaviours range and from time to time their focus isn’t always on the training exercise or the game.

My natural reaction was to apply a bit of discipline and single out those who weren’t performing to the standards I expected. In doing this though I quickly realised that I was going against a golden rule from the Whale Done teachings – don’t accentuate the negative. By focussing on the negatives I reduced the trust between us and got back even more of those behaviours.

This came to a head a few weeks ago when I decided to make a change. Rather than accentuating all the bad things, I would just offer praise. Every time a player made the effort to close the opposition down or tried to play a pass to a team mate, I encouraged them and funnily enough what did I get back? Yes, more of what I focussed on!

The first game I tried this at we didn’t win but we came pretty close. What was better though was that all the players came off the pitch smiling because they knew they had tried the bestthey could.

At the same time, I felt better too. I wasn’t left frustrated because a certain player hadn’t done this or that, I felt happy because I knew the change in my approach had worked.

This experience has reminded me of one of the phrases from the programme – “catch people doing things right” and when you do, praise them like you should!

This post is part of my 60 day blog challenge.

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