Fors and Againsts

By: Jim Bruce
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Today’s reading is a post, “Fors and Againsts,” that recently appeared in the Creative Leadership blog of John Maeda.  Maeda, who currently is the President of the Rhode Island School of Design, calls himself a graphic designer, computer scientist, academic, and author.  Previously, he was E. Rudge and Nancy Allen Professor of Media Arts and Sciences and Associate Director of Research at MIT’s Media Laboratory.  Thanks to Greg Anderson, MOR Associates Senior Consultant and Leadership Coach, for calling my attention to this piece.

Maeda’s essay recalls the phrase “practice makes perfect” from Malcolm Gladwell’s piece on the 10,000-Hour Rule which always prompts him to ask, “what” to practice.  This ties, of course, to the concept of “practices” that we encourage participants in the Leaders Programs to develop, as well as the feedback we, as leaders, give to our team members.  

Maeda’s favorite coach, Ralph Krueger, NHL Edmonton Oilers hockey coach, has shed some light on the “what” by pointing out that after each game he identifies two types of “moments” that occurred during the game:  Fors and Againsts.   “Fors” are opportunities that a player created for his team to score.  “Againsts” are opportunities a player created for the other team to score.  Maeda notes that the beauty of this approach is that it doesn’t focus on the number of goals scored or lost.  It only cares that the players are constantly nudging opportunities towards scoring and away from losing.

After each game, Krueger sets up practices to “drill into the player the best response to each of those two types of moment.”  His goal is to embody in his players the actions to take in each case so that they become “intuition.”  Intuition being repeatable, unconscious, embodied knowledge that can kick into action without thought at the  applicable moments.  We call these practices, or good habits.

For leaders, I think that the lesson is clear:  We need to look for Fors and Againsts in the work of our team and reinforce the applicable action for each ”For" and each "Against,“ encouraging the team member to make it a regular part of his or her repertoire or, in Coach Kruger’s words, his or her ”intuition“ to be called upon when when the opportunity presents itself.

I personally think that the concept of ”Fors“ and ”Againsts“ can be very helpful as we coach and give feedback to those around us.  To do this we ask what behaviors help the team (and/or team member) move forward to the results required and work to instill those behaviors as regular practices.  Similarly, we ask what behaviors detract from getting results and work to change those practices, treating them as bad habits.

Do stop for a moment and take the opportunities you have this week as you work with your team and its members to give this approach a try.

This week, we also celebrate Thanksgiving.  Take a moment to think about all the things and people who have come through your life and given you something to be thankful for.  You may want to tell some of them how thankful you are for their impact on you.

Have a wonderful week.  .  .  .    jim

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