Sprinkling and Dunking

Of the many reports and research articles I have read over the years, some findings stay with me and form a baseline from which ideas can spring.  I don’t propose here to repeat the research or even to assure that I’ve stated findings precisely.  Nonetheless, there are opportunities to learn.


Apparently, a habit “comes of age” at 21!  I have heard that it takes 21 repetitions to create or change a habit.  It is probably most valuable to achieve the desired change if those repetitions occur over more than a day or two.  I have also read that it takes three positive people – with some considerable energy extended – to outweigh a negativist.  In a room together, one positive and one negative or even two positives and one negative will, in a matter of minutes, talk and think about negative things.  Adding the third positive perspective won’t make the outcome certain or easy; it’s a minimum.  It seems we humans find it quicker and easier to tear down rather than build up.


What might managers take away from these findings?

  • Choose every day to be the positive one: model behaviors that you want your team to exhibit. Being a nice manager does not mean you have reduced standards.
  • Get out of your office and spend time with your team: listen to them, offer encouragement and recognition, remove barriers.
  • Take an appropriate interest in employees’ lives outside of work: connect with them.
  • Be vigilant to notice any actions, words or efforts that can be appreciated and thank people. The “size” of the deed makes little difference.
  • Don’t tolerate negativity: retaining your best employees may depend upon keeping the workplace positive.


These practices and others are not one-time fixes (i.e., a dunking).  They work when they’re connected to an intentional, mutually understood set of expectations about how people will treat each other (including customers, vendors, etc) in your workplace: when they’re sprinkled consistently, visibly and liberally each day.