In the 1990s I worked in what used to be known as the Eastern Bloc, or Former Soviet union, in Poland, Slovakia and former East Germany. Amongst other projects, I helped managers of former state run enterprises to understand a new free market economy where consumer demand was ‘King’. The Soviet centralised economy and mass distribution no longer existed. I worked through an intermediary, Mariusz T, a young graduate of Poznan University. Mariusz was in his early twenties, full of energy and optimism. He embraced the new capitalism with relish and boundless enthusiasm.
Our first assignment was in Kalisz in south west Poland, west of Lodz. We were to run a business seminar the following day for senior managers from the local area (Voivodeship).
We were at his dacha, a kind of wooden shack on a piece of land outside the city. We were drinking vodka and eating local Polish food on a barbeque. We chatted about the adventure ahead.
“Mariusz, how many of the managers tomorrow can speak English?”
“Some of them,” Mariusz said, “…their English is good. Some, their English is less good.”
The next day I met the managers and we explored business ideas. I could just about converse with those whose English was ‘Good’. The managers with ‘Less Good’ English? Well, my Polish was better than their English. Taka prawda!
Mariusz habitually used this language pattern, “X positive” and “X less positive”. It was a pattern which repeated in his communication. For Mariusz, things were good and less good, talented and less talented, skilful and less skilfull, beautiful and less beautiful, good value or less good value. There was no ‘bad’ for Mariusz; only ‘Less Good’. I was impressed by his mind set. A young man was teaching an old man a productive way of thinking. This was a positive and healthy model of self-talk, what Epictetus called ‘judgement on events’ (framing) and much later, Aaron Beck’s encouragement for us to ‘reframe’ negative circumstances.
“Good” and “Less Good” began to fit with my early shaping of Continue & Begin™ Fast Coaching. Today, for Continue & Begin™ coaches, reflecting on ‘Good’ is helpful for nudging the coachee (more on nudging in a forthcoming post) towards recognition of successful performance. Identifying ‘Less Good’ behaviours is a smart move for nudging the coachee towards the most value-adding Begin To behaviours.
Thank you Mariusz for the learning. Oh, and the vodka too. Na zdrowie!