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Paul Burri: Sure Enough, a Negative Attitude Will Lead to Negative Outcome

Management trick encourages employee problem-solving — and success

Some years ago a friend of mine attended a weekend seminar and when he returned, he handed me a coffee mug he had been given at the end of it. It had two words on it — Sure Enough. Of course I had to ask him what that was all about.

He explained that the two words were the summation of the whole seminar. It was a way to explain that one’s attitude about almost every situation had a direct impact on the outcome of the situation. To put it in everyday terms, think of this hypothetical scenario.

Your alarm clock doesn’t go off one morning and you wake up late for work. As you jump out of bed, you stub your toe on the edge of the bed. You hop around in pain and then stumble to the bathroom. Then you squeeze shaving cream on your toothbrush. You cut yourself shaving. In the kitchen trying to make a fast breakfast, you drop an egg on the floor. Then you step on the dog.

You say to yourself — out loud — “This is going to be a really lousy day.”

Sure enough. It will be.

I don’t know exactly how this works, but it has been my experience that if you approach a problem with a positive, confident attitude that you will solve it successfully, you will. And if you approach it negatively, you probably won’t. That’s “Sure Enough” at work.

During my management career, I used to require that my people never bring me a problem without also bringing me at least two possible solutions. There were several reasons for doing this. First, it kept them from running into my office for every little problem that they should have been able to figure out themselves in the first place. Second, it taught them that they could figure out a solution for themselves. Third, if after they brought me a few possible solutions and we decided between us to implement one of them, they were far more likely to be behind it and work for its success. Their attitude helped ensure its success. Fourth, it worked toward developing a more confident, more resourceful and more valuable work force.

One warning to anyone who might want to try this approach. Never, never, never berate an employee who initiates a solution that doesn’t work. Praise him or her for the attempt and for being resourceful. Then work with the employee to figure out why it didn’t work and to find the better way.

Sure enough, I know this works.

— Paul Burri is an entrepreneur, inventor, columnist, engineer and iconoclast. He is not in the advertising business, but he is a small-business counselor with the Santa Barbara chapter of Counselors to America’s Small Business-SCORE. The opinions and comments in this column are his alone and do not represent the opinions or policies of any outside organization. He can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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