21 January 2014

The greatest lessons we learn in life are often from the challenges we face and the things we do wrong. So when someone makes a mistake, whether in your family or your team at work, whilst it might be tempting to criticise, it’s unlikely to help them in the long run.

It was Richard Branson who taught me that people wither under criticism and thrive under praise. His approach was always to find somebody who was doing well at something and single them out and make a big deal out of that person rather than focus on somebody else’s mistakes. I probably used to fall into the latter of those categories years ago but I’ve met many more entrepreneurs since then and learnt new ways of doing things. I’ve learnt that Richard’s approach is far more effective and you get far greater loyalty than you would by criticising.

Look at it from a business perspective. Let’s say you’re a manager or business owner – how many mistakes have you made on that journey to get to where you’re at? Chances are you’ve made a few. So who are you to not cut somebody some slack? If one of my managers makes a mistake on their journey, I expect them to learn from it but I won’t criticise. Obviously, I don’t want them to keep repeating that mistake but more often than not people know deep down that they could have done better. It’s about allowing that person to dig a little deeper.

The first time I played Perudo (a dice game played on the streets of Peru) with Richard, I tried everything I could to win but I lost big. And at the end of it Richard turned to me and said, “It hurts doesn’t it, that feeling you have inside you now?” And I thought well it does actually but not half as much as it will for you when I beat you the next time! And that’s exactly what I did.

We can all motivate people in a loud, ‘rallying-the-troupes’ kind of way, yet here was a man just calmly and quietly asking me a question and with that very calming, mellow, well-targeted question, he managed to get an incredibly strong result out of me. So next time someone makes a mistake, instead of criticising, try to think about what will trigger the right sort of emotions that will help them to do better in the long run. Remember, your job is to help them thrive, not let them wither.

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