As an avid hockey fan (particularly of the Boston Bruins but still yearning for my old Hartford Whalers) since my formidable years, I often grew up wondering what the NHL stat “+/-” meant. It wasn’t until my teens that I discovered what the plus-minus statistic signified. It is the measure of performance of a hockey player to determine how many more goals their team scores versus what other teams score when they are on the ice.
Later on in life, I began to use this in a much different context. On a mere whim one day, I reflected on what I had done that day, and asked myself what I could have done better. Then for some reason, the “+/-” came to me and I decided to look at what my day was in both a negative (-) and positive (+) light. In other words, what could I have done better that day, and what did I feel I performed rather well on?
How many of us complete a day, then have little time for reflection at the end of it? Many times we may work straight until we go to sleep, or rush home for dinner, family events, and other busy work, or even just leisure brain breaks, and don’t walk away from the day with anything more than “Whew, I survived.” Each day is a gift, and an opportunity to learn and grow. By looking at the day in a context such as “+/-“, a leader can make great strides to increase their skills and be better prepared or the next day’s challenges to come.
What I found happened that day was I went away with a clear perspective on my wins and my opportunities over the last 16 hours. Instead of stressing over what I couldn’t do, and forgetting about what I did well, I had a concrete and objective look at how I am growing and improving as a leader.
Over the years, I have modified this some but the basic concept is still the same. Here is the method I now use, which is a great way for you to foster a method of continuous self-improvement:
- Find a quiet spot for 5-10 minutes. Use this solitude to think and recall your events, actions, and thoughts. Recreate the day.
- Grab a journal and get writing. This practice will only have value if you write it down. This will imprint your day in your mind and give it a better impression on your character. Plus, a journal will archive it for you to look at your growth over time.
- Start with the Minus (-). Get the negatives out of the way first. They’re bugging you, and won’t be a drag factor for #5 below. List no more than 3. Otherwise, you’ll get too discouraged to carry on the rest.
- Be honest about your failures for the day. You will do yourself a HUGE disservice and rob yourself of true growth if you are not completely honest about your opportunities to do better. What could you have said? Reacted better? Poorly planned that meeting? Identify, and resolve to improve tomorrow.
- End with the Plus (+). A favorite and funny episode of Seinfeld had the theme of George Costanza chanting “End on a high note!” . Save the best for last. List no more than 3 things that went well. Nothing is too minor for this list. You want to put “W’s” in your column to boost your self-esteem.
- Give yourself credit for the things you did well. Pat yourself on the back. Know that you have the abilities to be a great leader. Enjoy what went right.
- Look over both as what you’ve learned about yourself. Resolve to be stronger tomorrow from what you’ve learned today. You are developing into a great leader, and will be undoubtedly better tomorrow.
So ask yourself, at the end of every day, “What’s my +/-“?