I don't know about you, but I have always found and observed the impact on starting a meeting with a negative note. For example - 'where did we go wrong' 'tell me a struggle you have had'. From experience, it subconsciously puts us on the back foot.
We can spiral into a conversation that only focuses on negatives and can leave those attending (or those who hear about the meeting) in a less motivated state. Of course mistakes need to be discussed, but to mentally get everyone in a pro-active place, always start with a positive.
If not sure how to frame a question think about the following:
1. Tell me about something you are proud of you did this week(month/year)?
2. What was your biggest lesson learnt?
3. What do you enjoy about the project/product/team etc.
By starting on a high, it just means that as you have to start digging deeper into mistakes or unsuccessful outcomes the task is less onerous. You might be wondering about question 2 and rightly so. The term 'lesson learnt' implies a positive acceptance that there is an opportunity in the future to do better.
The same principles apply to doing performance reviews. As a line manager you shouldn't wait until a review meeting to bring up mistakes. If anything you should be dealing with them at the time. The review meeting is an opportunity to reinforce good habits. I often find with question 2 above, most people are self aware to acknowledge a performance issue and then demonstrate how they have worked to improve. Resulting in them feeling better about themselves and you having a far more pleasant conversation.
Misery loves company
What triggered me to write this short blog was a business owners meet up online. The person running it struck me as a bit condescending to start with and the energy was all wrong. Her first question to the group was 'what was your biggest setback this week'. I immediately logged off.
I am a great believer is surrounding yourself with positive people. There are those individuals who descend into self pity and as the old saying goes misery loves company. Make sure, to seek out groups that focus on the good. Don't be afraid to leave, look after you.
If that had been me running the group, I would have been more cheerful (when you lead you have to give off the energy you want to attract). My question would have been - 'Let me know about a win you had this week', or 'tell us about something in your business you were really proud off/achieved this week'. I would then follow up with, 'do you have some tips/lessons you can share that helped you achieve that win/goal?'.
The group would have heard stories that would have energised them. And even if they had had a bad week, hearing positive advise can only act as a help. It is up to that individual if they follow through, but you can only lead a horse to water and all that jazz.
While I speak from experience I am not alone in this way of approaching issues. We all mess up, we all have bad days, but the empirical evidence* is there regarding the benefits of a positive mind set. Even the term PMA - Positive Mental Attitude is something sports stars routinely have as part of their training regimes.
Allow yourself and your team to make mistakes (not gross misconduct!) in an environment that these won't be dragged up 6 months later. There is no greater way to break trust, than to tell someone things are OK and them 6-8 months later throwing them under the bus or throwing an old mistake in their faces. If they have grown, move on.