Focus On The Positive

Everyone makes mistakes, including of course presidents. How one handles one's own errors is up to the individual (I was always my toughest critic); how one deals with others' mistakes is another matter.

For better or worse (I think for better), I never remembered when someone else did something wrong. Well, almost never. I do remember, as if it were yesterday, going to the district attorney to have a vice president prosecuted for embezzlement.

Each year when I did personnel reviews, I had to turn to my assistant so she could remind me when staff members could have done something differently. It was not that I was trying to find something to criticize; I simply had no recollection of who did what wrong. I never did, though, have to be reminded of positive actions or results.

As naïve as this statement might appear, it was both true and helpful. Presidents have many items on their plates. By focusing on negative actions, energies are sapped and valuable time is wasted. And, since one has neither energy nor time to waste, one should do whatever possible to preserve both.

I was blessed by the fact that, without any effort on my part, I simply forgot when someone made a mistake. Water off a duck's back? Perhaps. Or perhaps it was a by-product of wanting my staff always to take the initiative. In any case, I felt this approach, which was part of my innate psychological makeup, was a tremendous help to me.

Simplistic? It might well be. It worked well for me, though, and others might find it helpful, too. Besides, one needs to remember a president is the college's chief cheerleader, among many functions, and the best way to cheer others along is, obviously, to focus on the positive.