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Inside the Mind at Work – Facilitating Progress and Dealing with Setbacks

Inside the Mind at Work

Question for Discussion: How important is focusing on small wins in motivating employees?

The topic of controlling bosses and perceived negativity comes up quite often in my executive coaching sessions. My clients want to have more input into decision-making and how work is done to stay engaged. It’s human nature that most people seek positive feedback on their progress to perform at their best.

I often suggest to my coaching clients that in-the-moment positive feedback based on progress helps motivate people. It can also help avoid those outdated performance evaluation meetings where people can be demoralized and become disengaged by negative performance feedback not balanced by a higher ratio of positive comments.

Facilitating Progress

When you focus on small wins and facilitate progress, your employees will find the energy and drive required to perform optimally.

Two key forces enable progress:

1. Catalysts—Events that directly advance project work, such as:

a. Clear goals

b. Autonomy

c. Resources, including time

d. Reviewing lessons from errors and success

e. Free flow of ideas

2. Nourishers—Interpersonal events that uplift workers, including:

a. Encouragement and support

b. Demonstrations of respect

c. Collegiality

Dealing with Setbacks

Three events undermine people’s inner work lives:

1. Setbacks—The biggest downer, yet inevitable in any sort of meaningful work

2. Inhibitors—Events that directly hinder project work

3. Toxins—Interpersonal events that undermine the people doing the work

Negative events carry a greater impact than positive ones. We pay more attention to them, remember them, and spend more time thinking and talking about them.

That’s why it’s so important for managers and team leaders to counteract negative events with positive perceptions and comments. Research shows it takes three positive messages to balance a negative one.

Emotionally intelligent and socially intelligent organizations provide executive coaching as part of their high performance leadership development program. Working with a seasoned executive coach and leadership consultant trained in emotional intelligence and incorporating assessments such as the Bar-On EQ-I, CPI 260 and Denison Culture Survey can help managers manage for progress. You can become a leader who models emotional intelligence and social intelligence, and who inspires people to become fully engaged with the vision, mission and strategy of your company or law firm.

About Dr. Maynard Brusman

Dr. Maynard Brusman is a consulting psychologist, executive coach and trusted advisor to senior leadership teams. He is the president of Working Resources, a leadership consulting and executive coaching firm. We specialize in helping San Francisco Bay Area companies and law firms assess, select, coach, and retain emotionally intelligent leaders.  Maynard is a highly sought-after speaker and workshop leader. He facilitates leadership retreats in Northern California and Costa Rica. The Society for Advancement of Consulting (SAC) awarded Dr. Maynard Brusman "Board Approved" designations in the specialties of Executive Coaching and Leadership Development.

For more information, please go to, write to, or call 415-546-1252.

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