My life, like that of many people, is a work in progress. Over the years I have worked hard to take greater responsibility for being the person I wanted to be, not who I “was.” Here is an example.

I have read The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey several times and was particularly struck by Habit No. 2: Begin with the End in Mind. Imagine you are attending a memorial service, Covey writes. You are walking down the aisle noticing that a lot of people you know are in attendance, people from all parts of your life.

You go up to the casket at the front of the chapel and look inside. The body in the casket is yours.

What do you want to hear people say at your memorial service?

Reading this I realized that, given how I behaved sometimes (too often), what I would hear would not be too pleasant. So I decided to make some “small” changes.

When I went to a job site, what used to happen is I would see the one thing wrong with the work that had been done. I would be frustrated and get angry, even when that issue I was reacting to was generally not of great importance in the big picture.

What also would be happening is I would be looking for someone to blame for the “problem.”

You can imagine how our employees might have felt anticipating me coming to a job site.

I decided that what I was doing was inconsistent with being who I wanted to be: a person who could take responsibility for his own behavior and consequently respond to reality in a more reasonable fashion.

Here is one of the several tactics I used to help in making these changes.

I put into my calendar every other day these words: “Praise Somebody.” On the alternating days, I put in “No Blame.” These reminders were the first things I saw every time I looked at my calendar.

Early on after I had done the above, I would go to a job site. I would still see the one thing “wrong” with what had been done. However, now I was working on not responding immediately to that stimulus.

Trying to avoid blowing up over something “wrong” took so much effort that I would drive away from the site without praising someone! Usually that realization hit me about 100 yards down the road.

So I would turn around and drive back to the site. I would find the lead carpenter after finding something, anything, about the work and/or the job site that I could praise him for. Having the site in good shape was something I felt was important to our clients, so I would, at the very least, look for floors that had been swept, a tidy lumber pile and the lack of debris.

In front of the other employees who might be nearby I would then say something like this to the lead carpenter: “I want to thank you, Bill, for your attention to how the site is being maintained. You know how important such things as general cleanliness and orderliness are to our clients. When I arrived at your site what I saw made me grateful to you for giving our clients good stories about these matters to tell their friends. Thank you, Bill, very much for doing this.”

And then I would drive away.

Now I had the feeling that our employees knew that I was trying hard to change as a person. And I think they appreciated it.

As time went by offering genuine praise became easier and easier. And I felt better and better about the person I was becoming.

Know that this took consistently paying attention to how I “naturally” responded to a stimulus (a “mistake”) and taking responsibility for trying to find a different more effective response. You can do the same.

I’ll write more about “No Blame” in the next blog.