What’s Working Well?

Have you ever spoken this question out loud?

Or even internally asked it of yourself?

If not, consider it a missed opportunity.

I guarantee you: this question will transform your business.

Here’s why:

You get more of what you reinforce

In any complex, adaptive system — to include organizations like your business — you always get more of what you reinforce.

So you never want to miss an opportunity to reinforce good things when they happen.

Pro Tip: In a business, “reinforce” means acknowledge, celebrate and incentivize.

But you won’t know what to acknowledge, celebrate, and incentivize unless you consciously look for it.

Unfortunately, our minds aren’t hardwired to pay attention to what’s working well, especially anything that’s consistently working well.

Instead, our noggins are hardwired to pay attention to:

  1. Change
  2. Problems

Ever heard the phrase: “Don’t know what you’ve got, ‘till it’s gone”?

This is why that phrase is a cliche.

The steady-state good thing is overlooked, as per our hardwiring.

Once it’s gone the change and the newly arrived problems caused by its absence make us acutely aware of what we had.

For example, take your facilities maintenance team.

How often does anyone thank them for keeping everything working properly?

99% of the time, if they hear from anyone, it’s ‘cause there’s a problem. Suddenly, the AC or plumbing or roof ain’t working, and everybody notices.

But a maintenance team that’s appreciated, always works harder than one that’s only ever spoken to when there’s a problem.

The solution is to consciously ask “What’s working well?”

Ask it of yourself, and you’ll find reasons for gratitude.

Ask it of your people, and they’ll find reasons to appreciate their co-workers.

Then, when you get the answers, make sure you acknowledge, celebrate, and incentivize, as appropriate.

Reinforce the stuff you want more of.

Start With Meetings

I introduced this change to my client meetings a while back, and it’s made a world of difference.

Subsequently, clients have used it for their internal meetings, and also reported major success.


Because most meetings focus on — you guessed it:

  1. Change,
  2. Problems.

Yet starting meetings with a celebration of success sets the tone of teamwork necessary to effectively negotiate changes and overcome challenges.

Time-wise, starting the meeting with “What’s working well” is a small change.

But it’ll make a huge difference in the tone, tenor, and effectiveness of your meetings.

And from there, it just becomes a matter of finding the best ways to acknowledge, celebrate, and incentivize the successes to achieve the best results.

Reinforce the right stuff, and you’ll get more of it. I promise. It’s a natural law of the universe.

And for you, it’ll all start with a simple question, probably nobody on your team has ever been asked before.

Why not test-drive it by asking the next person you see?