Reflection Letters


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Provocation of the month:

“Positive strokes have positive effects, negative strokes have negative effects and the worst is no strokes at all.”

Our fullest potential
We have, as parents, the responsibility to create the conditions for our children so that they can develop in harmony to their fullest potential. We have, as leaders, the responsibility to create the conditions for our co-workers to develop in harmony to their fullest potential. How should we then think and act in order for this to happen? The answer to this question is probably relevant in all our relationships including the relationship with ourselves.

Positive strokes
Positive strokes are about seeing the best in people and their progress. It is about rewarding small steps in their and our own development. We can reward positive change by showing that we see and appreciate it. We can show our appreciation with words, flowers, a hug, recognition of the development in public, by delegating more responsibility and by offering a salary increase. I said in an earlier reflection letter that we will get what we see and what we put our focus on, and if we see and focus on our own and other’s positive development we will see and get more of it. We need to be sincere. Our recognition and feedback has to come from our loveful side. It has to come from our heart if we are to build trustworthy and sustainable relationships. We do not own our children or our co-workers and they will one day choose their own road in life. Will we still have a sustainable and respectful relationship? Yes, if it is build on love, respect and appreciation.

Negative strokes
Negative strokes are about seeing and focusing on the weaknesses or shortcomings in ourselves and in other people and communicating that to ourselves and to others. We will become focused on what is not good about ourselves and others or mistakes that we or they have committed. This pattern will lead to a destructive culture that can be very difficult to break. We ourselves and other people will become defensive, anxious, aggressive or withdrawn. This culture will not promote positive personal development. It will not give us and others the possibility to develop to our fullest potential in a harmonious way. We need to understand though that some of us as leaders, parents and co-workers have come out of a culture dominated by negative strokes and that puts extra demand on us as leaders to overcome it ourselves and to help our co-workers to overcome it.

No strokes at all
This is about not being seen by anyone, which is the worst situation for an individual. The normal reaction is that we will try to provoke others in order to be seen. We are social beings and we want to belong. None of us would like to live our lives without reactions from our environment. The end result of not being seen may lead to our becoming everything from criminals to addicts (sex, alcohol, drugs or isolation) unless we have the inner strength to get out of our situation in a constructive way. Some career people (i.e. CEO: s, artists, athletes) seem to have problems when they are no longer in focus in the media or fear that they will not be in focus. They start to behave in surprisingly destructive ways which brings them back into the spotlight. This time for totally different reasons than what first gained them attention.

Tough love
This is a very difficult and challenging approach that is sometimes needed if I really care for myself and the other person. Tough love may easily be perceived by the other person as negative strokes and they will become defensive and may say that you are wrong or that you do not understand him/her. Choosing the tough love approach requires that I have done my homework. I need to understand why the person is acting or behaving the way he or she does and create trust. I need to believe that I am creating a long term relationship or at least that my feedback will help the person in the long run. Tough love may also lead to the person hating me, but it helped him or her to take constructive steps in their private and professional life. The other person may hopefully see my tough love in a more positive way later on in life even if that is not the reason why we do it.

The tough love approach must be based on my own development and my sincere care, respect and love. Tough love based on my own compensation ambitions is worth nothing and will only be perceived as negative strokes.