How to Focus on the Future while Evaluating the Past
Stop saying “should have,” after projects are completed. Start saying “next time.” The former is backward-facing and the latter is forward-facing.
Should have’s correct the past; something impossible to do. When you say “we should have” you belittle past wisdom and efforts.
Should-have-leaders honor their critics; something that creates more critics because you get more of what you honor.
Next-time-leaders honor the efforts and learning of the team. They build a higher platform for future initiatives.
A note on criticism versus evaluation:
Critics frequently don’t participate but judge what was done. Critics sit on the sidelines and seldom offer useful suggestions because they are ignorant of everything that was planned and done. They tear down. If the best you can do is point out failures in others, you’re probably failing yourself.
Participants, on the other hand, offer insightful evaluations that create improvements. They establish platforms that enhance and build the future.
Say, “What worked” and “What didn’t work” rather than “What went wrong.” The former acknowledges sincere effort. The latter is negative; it belittles participants.
“Should have” ties you to the past and expresses defeatist attitudes. “Next time” presses into the future and maintains momentum; something all successful leaders do.
How do you evaluate past performance while maintaining forward-facing momentum?
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Your post reflects an important mindset and shift in thinking for most people. In leading through change, it is important to keep a positive, but realistic perspective. What we do “next time” honors what we have done correctly in the past, while looking forward to building on the parts that didn’t work so well.
I believe to focus on future while evaluating the past by three elements. Circumstances, decisions, and learning. One needs to analyse under what circumstances decisions were taken and what was the outcome of those decisions. The process teaches us about learning. Learning could be in terms of success, failure on effort or certain conditions that were beyond our control. Repetition provides repeated result and change provides different result. Now, it depends upon person interest and priority what to chose. Decision taken against odd circumstances may not always guarantee success or expected result. In those situations, we lose our confidence and question our decisions. Those are the challenging moments and we should realise that there are many circumstances that we cannot control.
Decision is more important for better future. Just like repeated efforts provide predictable result, well decided efforts provide positive and inspiring result. Change is the law of nature. And we are part of nature, so to live our lives proudly, we need to take decision it time otherwise life becomes monotonous and spiritless.
I like it! seems like attitude has a lot to do with it
“Editing” and “evaluating” can be an infinite activity because each time we look at something we have completed, we do so with a different perspective. At some point, we must just accept that it is enough and good and done, and move on, using what we take away as wisdom to be used in the next phase. By over-evaluating we do diminish our work and dismiss it as unworthy. It is important to honor the learning we do every time we complete something of value to us. Thanks for a thought provoking entry~
I think it’s the classic ‘Don’t should on yourself’ 🙂
I suggest adding to the bonus tips questions for looking ahead instead of behind, such as: “What would work even better?” and “Knowing what we know now, what will we do differently?”
When the word ‘wrong’ comes into the dialogue, there is usually judgement or criticism, again probably not forward leaning. Right after that can come blame, et al and dysfunction.
Instead of saying ‘what’s wrong with you’ or ‘what went wrong’, there can be more supportive, more objective ways of saying it. “What happened to you?” or just ‘what happened?’ works. Genuinely wanting to know what happened to a person can be very powerful-at the same time, a response can create a vulnerability and you have an obligation to honor/protect that.
A good post to emphasize on positivity and learning from the past to secure good future. A very important message of not wasting time in ‘what went wrong’.
Looking forward and planning for future based on past experience can be beneficial. Yet, it’s wise to learn from your successes and not to repeat the mistakes what might have hindered the success degree.
My only submission is not to waste time in doing the postmortem of what went wrong. It is just killing and may end up your entire enthusiasm and would lead to start ‘a blame game’. This will not help anyone but certainly drag you behind and your level of progress.
Successful leaders always look for positive aspects and would motivate the team to plan things with great care & creativity.
Looking at things positively make a huge difference to how an organization functions. So I definitely understand how an ‘evaluation’ could have more positive results than ‘criticism’.
But i don’t completely agree with your point about how non-participant ‘critics’ seldom offer useful suggestions. I think that while participants will definitely have good suggestions, sometimes, they might overlook certain points or aspects because they are too close to the work. Also, it will be difficult for them to come up with radically different solutions because, as participants, they have gotten used to doing things a certain way. This is where a third person perspective proves to be very useful. These ‘critics’ offer a different outlook and point of view. I agree that their suggestions might not always be useful, but they can help one think out of the box. And so, it is always a good idea to get this perspective. Use it if it is useful, discard it if it is not.
– Sindoora (http://www.beyondhorizons.in)
thanks for your comment and for extending the conversation.
I think you are right about ideas coming from the outside. My experience with critics is they frequently focus on whats wrong and add little to the “what’s could be done” category.
thanks again for jumping in…
I don’t think a freak would dispense such helpful advice!