The power of a Pink Elephant

Photograph of an elephant facing outward in a green jungle. The elephant is pinkish - maybe from a sunset?“Don’t think of a pink elephant!”

The problem, of course, is that you first have to think of what a pink elephant is before you can “not think” of it.

On one of Brené Brown’s recent podcast episodes, she mentioned training lifeguards. They were taught to say “Please walk!” instead of “Don’t run!” Apparently, every time the whistle blew and someone was told “Don’t run!”, they immediately – you guessed it – ran.

Don’t run. Don’t think of a pink elephant.

Don’t tell your people what you don’t want. (Yes, I see what I did there.)

Tell them what you do want. The lifeguards who said, “Please walk!” got people to … walk.

I understand that sometimes someone’s behavior seems so bad that we feel compelled to say “Don’t!”

But what might happen if you instead explained “Do!”?

Sometimes – not always, but sometimes – people’s bad behavior is a direct consequence of not knowing what they could be doing differently – and better.

If you have a performance problem on your team and you haven’t already downloaded either the Performance Improvement Plan Checklist, or the Five Challenging Employees (and how to manage them) resources (or both), just follow the links to get access.

Want to talk about it? Contact me and we’ll set a time to meet.