Accelerating Change 1:Dispelling the Myth of Correction
There is a huge belief in the world sort of like a pandemic of human behavior that, no matter what the research says along with hundreds of books continues to exist virtually unchallenged and unabated. That myth is that when someone does something wrong, i.e. when they make a mistake, that it has to be corrected. A child could have scored the highest math score in the history of humankind, but the huge majority of parents in the world will spend far more time on teaching him why he should put the toothpaste cap on the toothpaste tube, than in analyzing how he has performed so well in mathematics.
What is it with us that we defy science in order to try to correct everything? What is it about a mistake that is so attractive and appealing that we just can’t leave it alone? Why do we have to take out our baseball bats and beat it into the ground until it gives up and says, “ok, I will fix it?”
Take the Apollo 13 failed space journey to the moon. Have you ever seen a group of more competent people working together to get the astronauts back to the planet after they started having problems? It was one of the most creative acts of engineering excellence one could ever imagine. Here they were acting together with a pile of things that would be in the space craft, and they brought them back. Amazing! After the landing I am sure that the whole emphasis on all investigations was to find the thing that went wrong, but what should be interesting to all of us is how they all worked together in harmony and incredible creativity and resourcefulness to bring the crew home safely. Now that is the thing that should have been studied because if NASA could have changed its way of operating so that there was more of that kind of process, then perhaps some of the other engineering disasters that were to come later would not have happened.
One thing is clear. The research says that when we pay attention to the processes that work and then acknowledge them often, people stay engaged in what they are doing much longer and more productively. What happens with correcting is that the words literally pass through as if they were never heard, and then the tones cause people to become fearful, tense, and more likely to quit.
Feeling like you have to correct mistakes all the time comes from a faulty belief about society and humankind. It comes from the idea that people are incompetent and the positions available in the world are limited. If one corrects enough, then there will be a much greater possibility of getting one of the few positions that are available because all of the incompetence will be taken out of them. So the belief goes.
A much more useful belief is that human beings have endless treasures inside of them that can be discovered, acknowledged and allowed to develop in the right environments. Accelerating change happens when you correct only very moderately, but spend most of your time discovering and acknowledging talents and gifts and then giving them an environment to develop.
The tone is always the give away for me. I used to always react when people corrected me like something was really wrong with me. What has changed, or is beginning to change, is knowing that when someone uses an angry or arrogant tone with me, they are the ones in need of the change and not me. When they are angry, they are trying to get me to change for their own self interest. The correction has nothing to do with me, my well-being or my future. It is only about them and what they are trying to get by having me change.
When a parent is angry at a child, the parent is trying to get the child to be what they are not. Positive correcting is not anger-driven. This is always the key because when I am free of anger, I usually have more choice. I can choose to correct or not to correct, but I am not compelled like when I have anger. If someone has a positive tone when they are correcting me, then the advice may be worth listening to , but when they are angry, I am thinking what is it that they want from me.