The Power Of The Glass Half Empty

It’s great to get good reviews and hear positive feedback . . . positive is good. But negative is powerful. Don’t get me wrong: the glass is half full. But what’s in that “empty” half? I think it’s filled with clues on how we can make the good even better. The trick is to spot the clues.

Hang in the negative

We’ve been using this idea at Decision Toolbox (DT) for years. Not surprisingly, people like to focus on what’s working. But imagine this: at the end of an engagement, let’s say a recruitment project, you get back a client satisfaction survey with a score of 100%. Now shake things up. Call the client and say, “We appreciate that feedback, but no one is perfect. Wasn’t there something we could have done better?”

For one thing, you’ve just blown that client’s mind. She’s thinking, “I just gave them a perfect score and they still want to be better? Wow!” But suppose she tells you, “Well, now that I think of it, there were a couple of days during the engagement when I wondered where things stood, but I wasn’t getting updates.”

This is feedback you can use, a guide for making that good thing even better. No, the changes probably won’t be huge. But Olympic athletes like Apollo Ohno take steps to shave .02 seconds of their time — and sometimes that difference is golden.

Listen to the silence

There’s also power in silence. No, I’m not going all Zen on you. Not long ago, Kathy Marshall, DT’s Director of Recruitment Quality, blogged about this notion. She says the feedback she does get around quality is valuable, but she believes there is “quality gold” in the feedback that isn’t always offered. You have to go and get it.

This applies beyond client satisfaction surveys. For example, people tend to ignore introverts on their teams. But you need both introverts and extroverts. You don’t usually have to ask extroverts for their opinion — in fact, sometimes the challenge is getting them to be quiet for two seconds!

But the introvert in a meeting may be quietly looking at the issue from multiple viewpoints or playing out different scenarios in his head. If you’re leading the meeting, make a point of asking the quiet ones to share. Or find some time alone and ask their thoughts.

Think inside the box

A lot of people rush to think outside the box. It’s sexy. But thinking outside before thinking inside is like trying to sell someone a drill when all they really need is a hole. Great innovators first look inside the box so they’re really clear on what’s there. THEN they turn outside.

Here’s an example. Years ago I headed up a project to fill 20 pharmacist openings around the country. We filled 19, but we couldn’t fill the one in Petaluma, California. You know, the “Egg Capital of the World”? We tried drawing candidates by selling the career path, the benefits, the professional development opportunities . . . these worked everywhere but Petaluma.

So we took another look inside the box: what does Petaluma have that nearby areas don’t? Then it hit us: lower real estate prices, particularly compared to other parts of the Bay Area. NOW we looked outside the box. We created a flyer with pictures of three porta-potties and the caption, “The only three toilets for less than $1 million in Silicon Valley.” We sent it to every registered pharmacist in that area, and soon after we filled the position with someone who was tired of an astronomical mortgage. We had the selling point inside our box the whole time!

Co-Authored By Tom Brennan, Senior Writer

Kim Shepherd
Kim Shepherdhttp://www.dtoolbox.com/
AS CEO of Decision Toolbox, Kim Shepherd leads the company’s growth strategy, primarily through developing partnerships, alliances and as an active member of the Los Angeles and Orange County human resources community. A recognized thought leader by HR organizations nationwide including the Human Capital Institute, Kim is a regular speaker at national and regional events on various business models. Kim joined Decision Toolbox in 2000, and brought her unconventional approach to the company she had admired as a client. Today Decision Toolbox is 100% virtual, with more than 100 team members working remotely across the U.S. This company is a Certified Women’s Business Enterprise. This unique business model has played a key role in the company being awarded the Alfred P. Sloan Award for Business Excellence in Workplace Flexibility in 2009, 2011 and 2012. Decision Toolbox was also named one of the "Fastest Growing Private Companies" by the Orange County Business Journal in 2012. In addition, they have been named 3 years running to the INC 500/5000 List of Fastest Growing Private Companies and have been a 7-time recipient of the HRO Today’s Baker’s Dozen for Midmarket and Emerging Markets. Calling Kim unconventional is an understatement – her former endeavors include 10 years as a TV and Foreign Correspondent, a stint at Club Med and a near miss at a spot on the Olympic ski team. Kim is an active member of the Adaptive Business Leaders Executive Roundtable and the National Association for Women Business Owners (Orange County Chapter). She served on the Executive Board of Trustees for Girls Incorporated of Orange County and is also the Board Chair for Working Wardrobes. She is also a former member of Impact Giving. Kim is the recipient of the National Association of Women Business Owners (Orange County Chapter) 2013 Innovator of the Year Award, the 2014 Enterprising Women Magazine’s Enterprising Women of the Year, and the 2015 Family Matters Award from WomanSage.

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Chris Pehura
Chris Pehura

The glass can be half empty or half full; but the real question is: “is there enough water to drown you?” We need to look at things from all three of these view points.

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