Catch people doing the right things

This article is about how a simple change of mindset can have a far-reaching positive impact on engagement, performance & productivity. 

“Catch people doing something right”. Every time I bring that up at our leadership training programs I see thoughtful faces and nodding heads.

It’s a very powerful mindset and way of being… one that unfortunately often seems to get lost in our busy, task-focused-need-things-done-yesterday world, where we seem to focus more on what went wrong than what went right.

Our brains are wired to notice the ‘negative’ stuff – unusual differences, abnormalities, pattern changes, differences from the norm.

When something doesn’t look right, the brain’s interpretation is usually “look out, pay attention! There’s a potential threat to us and hence our survival” 5 times as much circuitry in our brains is dedicated to detecting threat.

We’re very good at detecting ‘the bad stuff’ – and that the negative stuff has a much bigger impact on us as our brains feel it potentially impacts our survival. The brain has a way more powerful ‘look out for the wrong stuff’ bias than a ‘look for the good stuff’ lens.

As a result of all this, ‘the good stuff’ can slip by without being particularly noticed – as that’s not what the brain needs to pay most attention to.

The impact of this is that the good work & behaviour is often taken for granted because that’s what we expect people ‘should’ be doing. The ‘bad’ behaviour and mistakes activate potential ‘threat’ states in us, so we focus on [fixing] those instead.

If people keep telling us how to fix what we don’t do well what happens? Yes, of course, we become disengaged. We don’t feel good.

It all becomes a threat to our brains. It activates our fight/flight/freeze responses and we try to fight it or avoid/run away from it. We feel annoyed. Upset. Not appreciated. Undervalued. Not good enough. If it keeps happening, it can have far reaching personal implications on our mental health.

Conversely, when we receive positive feedback about what we do well we get a big hit of feel-good neuro-chemicals like dopamine, serotonin, oxytocins, etc. These neuro chemicals make us feel good…and hence want to do more of those things. This especially applies when feedback is specific about the actual behaviours and things we’ve done and we can distinctively identify those things.

People feel happier, more motivated. They will then think clearer and will do better work.

Those feel-good chemicals also reinforce and deepen positive neural learning pathways in our brains, and turn positive learning and behaviours into better habits.

And if you can use a Coaching Leadership style to get people to come to their own conclusions about what they did well and you as a leader reinforce that, then you get even better engagement and results.

So, make “catching people doing something right” a part of your daily thinking. Make it your personal leadership mantra…leadership that applies to self, the people around you, your boss, your internal and external clients, not just the people who report to you.

The Challenge: every day for 3 weeks, catch different people doing at least 3 things right per day! Give them specific feedback around it. See what happens…Look for the good & see the change. 

T.O.A.D. Coaching Leadership

We define leadership as not just leading your team. It’s also leading yourself, leading your peers and of course leading (managing) upwards.

A ‘catch people doing something right’ mindset is an integral part of our T.O.A.D. Coaching Leadership and Giving & Receiving Feedback programs.

T.O.A.D. Coaching Leadership  is ask not tell, listen over talk, get people thinking of their own solutions rather than giving them yours, etc approx 70% of the time.

T.O.A.D. Coaching Leadership fits in with the neuroscience research in that it puts good chemicals into people’s brains so people feel valued and appreciated. They feel happier and hence perform better. It also ticks the boxes of so much other empirical and behavioural research. It is also the core behavioural competency underpinning emotional intelligence.

T.O.A.D. Coaching Leadership style (approx 70% of the time) will produce happier, more engaged, people who take more responsibility and think more for themselves and solve more problems themselves.

T.O.A.D.Coaching Leadership develops people who operate at peak performance; drive better productivity; deliver better outcomes. More innovation will also result. Aren’t these the things we all want as leaders? And from our leaders?

Southern Cross Coaching & Development offers our unique T.O.A.D. Coaching Leadership program that gives leaders the tools they need to become Coaching Leaders. We’ve had such incredible feedback from our clients who have adopted our unique, profoundly simple,  practical and immediately applicable T.O.A.D. Coaching Leadership model.

Clients who have adopted it include global listed companies, large NSW Government agencies, nationally listed and large privately owned corporations.

Our T.O.A.D. Coaching Leadership model transcends culture and has proven itself time & time again from CEOs & Executives to new managers. We’ve rolled out the program in Australia and overseas i.e. Malaysia, Singapore. Ask us how it can benefit your team or organisation.

Go to and get in touch there – or call us direct on +61 2 7901 5618, or email [email protected].