Just a few days ago my wife and I were at our local park lying in the grass and taking some time out to relax. Not far from us was a group of little leaguers practicing for a baseball game. They hadn’t yet started the game but were warming up for the big event. Like most teams they had their stars and they had their mediocre players. But watching them practice it seemed like the second team had a bit of an edge over the first. They had some more mature boys that were bigger and physically stronger. If I were a betting man I’d have put my money on them. That is until I met their coaches!
Each team had an adult man acting as their coach. Knowing my interest in human behavior, my wife turned to me and said, “Mark, check out the coaches.” I turned my attention to the men and immediately noticed that they each had very different coaching styles.The man who was the coach for the first team spoke very little. In fact the only time he said anything was when one or a group of the boys did something good. For example if they caught a fly, stole second or hit a base hit, he would say, “good show,” or “way to go,” or “nice play.” Whenever one of the boys would do something right he would give them a loud verbal comment that made the their action seem outstanding or even spectacular. If on the other hand one of the boys didn’t catch a fly ball or a ground ball shot by them he would not comment on the missed opportunity. He only commented on the positive actions. He also kept the game going by constantly passing new balls into play. The coach made sure that there was no downtime in play. That first team had lightness in their step and passion in their play.The coach from the second team was handling things in quite a different way. He seemed to focus only on the missed opportunities and mistakes that were made. He would say, “What are you doing? What were you thinking? How could you miss that?” If the boys did something good he was silent. He only spoke up when an error was made. He would often stop the play to give “advice” to the team or to comment on their lack of performance. When he did this, all of the boy’s shoulders slumped and their heads hung low. I don’t think this coach noticed this. My wife and I noticed it because we sat several hundred yards away. From our vantage point, the way the boys shuffled from place to place was proof that they wished they were somewhere else rather than on that field.Suddenly the boys ceased practicing and the game began. The second team, while having the advantage of both size and strength was failing miserably. They seemed to miss even the easiest of plays. They jabbed at each other and even fought among themselves. Throughout this their coach had a miserable, disgusted look on his face. It was obvious he was displeased and even angry.The first team, although lacking in size and strength was beating the pants off their more powerful adversary. Their effervescence was rather obvious. They were willing to steal bases, willing to take risks, and willing to try and try again. Could it be that their coach’s encouragement and inspiration had had such a dramatic impact on their success? They had they overcome their physical limitations with pure commitment, dedication and motivation.The second team ultimately lost the game. I felt terrible for them as they walked off the field in abject failure. I didn’t envy the “after-the-game lecture” that their coach was sure to give them. He still didn’t get it as he eyed the boys with a sour smirk, shaking his head in disgust. He did not understand that they could never win while under the hand of his iron fist. He robbed these children of their spirit. He made them feel that they were lazy or daydreaming when in fact they were giving their all. He was just lucky it wasn’t my son that was on his team!You may be thinking at this point – – “Nice story, Mark but you don’t understand the circumstances I’m facing in my business. The competition is beating my doors down, out-advertising and out-pricing me while my employees only seem to care about an increase in their compensation and how many days off they get. How can I concentrate on the positive things when there are so many NEGATIVE things happening?”The fact is that there will always be bad things happening. There will always be mistakes. There will always be errors. We can choose to focus on the hundreds of negative things or the few positive. Do you suppose it’s easier to “fix” the hundreds of things that might be WRONG in your business or to try to expand the 1 or 2 positive things?I’m embarrassed too say that there are times when I too catch myself focusing on the “missed opportunities” rather than the spectacular performance. I think I’d like to be a little more like that first coach. He didn’t acknowledge their errors but he certainly was there to meet their excellence. It’s easy to point out the mistakes of others but its much more difficult to give accolades and notice the success of others.