Catch People Doing Something Right

By: Glenda Lofton, Ph.D.

Oct 6, 2020

As I started to write my article, I received an email from Julie East sharing some recent reviews from the Lofton Staffing Google page.  The reviews from Matthew Turk in Baton Rouge were complimentary to Lofton and the staff, and reinforced one of Tommy Lofton’s beliefs on which Lofton Staffing was founded—that people should be “feeling better when they leave our office than when they came.”                

It reminded me of a similar lesson I learned as a beginning classroom teacher.  Most colleges and universities now include a course on classroom management, but that was not included in my teacher preparation program.  It is not surprising then that I struggled early on with the most effective way to maintain discipline in a classroom of 32 second graders.  When my supervisor visited my class, I told her that I was having a problem with discipline.  “Plan wisely,” she said to me, “and discipline will take care of itself.”  I thanked her politely, but inside I thought, “I am planning wisely, but I’m still having trouble with discipline.”  So, I went to the library and checked out every book I could find on discipline and classroom management.  Two ideas stood out to me: (1) Most students want to “do the right thing and do things right”; show them how.  Together make a list of things “we can do that make it easier to learn and make our classroom a nice place to be.”   (2) Then, catch students doing something right, praising and rewarding the good behavior rather than focusing on the bad.  Take time to write notes to students and their parents bragging on what the students do well.                

In an effort to create a more positive and productive learning environment, we generated our list. Each student agreed that the list was fair and made a commitment to do the things listed.  Everyone in the class assumed responsibility for leading by example and helping others do what was right. When a student was talking, we bragged on the student next to him who was listening attentively, and I was amazed to see the noisy child get quiet.  When students forgot, as we all sometimes do, we reminded rather than reprimanded.  Designated students would quietly write the number of the rule on a slip of paper and place it on the student’s desk.  When a student did something right, I often put a Tootsie Roll on his desk and told him specifically what he had done well.  (I still meet former students who ask if I have a Tootsie Roll in my pocket.)  At the end of each week, we talked about our successes and the things we still needed to work on.  I made a habit of writing “happy notes” to students and their parents.                

One of the most memorable moments came years later when I was working with a fifth grader who seemed to do more things wrong than right.  From talking to him and his former teachers, I learned that he lived with elderly grandparents who tried really hard to help him.  So one day, I caught him doing something right, and I wrote a note to his grandmother praising his accomplishments. I could hardly wait to get her response when he came to school the next morning. “Did you show the note to your grandmother?” I asked. “Yes,” he said.  “What did she say?” I asked.  “Nothing,” he answered.  I was devastated.  And then he said, “She just bawled and bawled.”                

Unfortunately in our homes, in our schools and in the workplace, we tend to be critics rather than encouragers.  We look for what’s wrong rather than what’s right.  Some people never hear a word of praise or encouragement.  As a classroom teacher, I once attended a training session where the leader asked us to list the names of all our students, then list something each student did well, and finally to list a time that we had praised the student for what he did well.  Many were disappointed with their results.  If you made a similar list of your family members or coworkers, would you be happy with the results?  Do you know the strengths of others?  Are you an encourager or a critic?

In one of my favorite books, The Eighth Habit, written to help us move from effectiveness to greatness, Stephen Covey (2004) challenged us as families, businesses and organizations to  not only catch people doing something right but to communicate to people their worth and potential so clearly that they come to see it in themselves. As Albert Pine once wrote, “What we do for ourselves dies with us.  What we do for others and the world remains and is immortal.” 


About Lofton: Founded in 1979, Lofton Services offers clients the best of all worlds. We provide the responsive, personal service and flexibility of a small local firm while having the technology, resources, and infrastructure to deliver the benefits of the biggest players in our industry. Lofton Staffing can deliver the right people, with the right skills, right when you need them. Contact us today


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We Believe...

Relationships are built…one on one.
Know your people - match interest and talents to the tasks.
Don’t manage by numbers. (They just show if we’re on track.) People do the work.
People should feel better when they leave than when they came – and in turn we feel better.
When we help others, we help ourselves.
Great expectations: fair pay, fair treatment, teach me.
Have fun…and be better.
Work at having fun (51% of the time.) If you don’t feel it, fake it. Having fun is not slacking off. Work is more natural than play.