The Catching People Doing Something Right Approach

There are many ways to support people. One approach is to catch people doing something right. It is an approach that has been used by encouragers throughout the ages. It is now used more often in education, sports, business and other fields.

The approach involves aiming: a) to give specific examples of what the person did right; b) to clarify the principles they followed; c) to encourage them to follow these principles in the future.

Imagine that you want to follow elements of this approach in your own way. Let’s explore how you can translate this into action.

You can catch people
doing something right

One of my mentors emphasised this theme when we met during the late 1960s. They expressed this in the following way.

“When looking at people, try to have positive eyes. Look for when they are doing things right. Anybody can tell you what people do wrong. The key is to look for what people do right.

“Try to focus on their specific actions – the specific things they do and say – to get the right results. It is then to encourage them to do more of these things in the future.”

Ken Blanchard, the author of many books on leadership, underlined the value of this approach. Here are some steps you can take to follow this approach in your own way.

You can clarify the principles people
followed to do something right

Encouragers sometimes going deeper than highlighting when people do things right. They encourage people to focus on: a) the principles they followed; b) the specific things they did to translate these into action.

Why take this approach? Great workers and organisations are often principles driven. They keep following certain principles in order to do great work.

Some organisations are started by charismatic founders. They have strong personalities and inspire people to reach compelling goals. This approach works for a while but it is hard to scale.

Such organisations then need to become principles driven. They need to keep reminding people of the principles they can follow to do superb work and help the organisation to achieve success.

Different organisations do this in different ways. Some produce success stories that highlight when people do fine work. When doing so, they sometimes use the following framework.

The Success Story

The specific example of when a
person or a team did superb work was:


The specific principles they followed – and
how they translated these into action – were:




The specific results
that were achieved were:




The specific ways we can follow
these principles in the future are:




This final point highlights a key aspect of catching people doing something right. Let’s explore this theme.

You can encourage people to follow these
principles to continue doing things right

Great workers keep following the principles that work. They may believe, for example, in aiming: a) to build on their strengths; b) to provide great service to customers; c) to help customers to achieve success.

Such workers keep following these principles. The ways they translate these into action, however, may develop over the years. Bearing this in mind, they keep asking themselves the following questions.

What are the principles we want to follow in our work? What are the reasons why we want to follow these principles? What are the benefits to the various stakeholders?

What are we doing right to follow these principles? How can we keep doing these things in the future? What can we do better and how? What else can we do to perform superb work and help our customers to achieve success?

Great educators encourage people: a) to clarify the principles that work; b) to clarify how they can translate these into action in the future. People then have a framework they follow to achieve future success.

They also encourage people to keep doing reality checks to ensure that what they are doing is working. Why take this approach? This is because the principles for doing great work often remain the same. The ways these are applied, however, can evolve over the years.

Let’s return to your own life and work. Can you think of a situation where you may want to follow elements of the catching people doing something right approach? This could be in your personal or professional life.

What may be the specific situation? How can you follow this approach in your own way? What may happen as a result of taking these steps?

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to complete the following sentences.

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