How About Asking Yourself What’s Right?

January 19, 2010 at 9:46 pm 12 comments


Featured Guest Blogger: Anthony Fasano, P.E., CPC, LEED AP
Maser Consulting
Associate Civil Engineer and Professional Career & Leadership Development Coach
Click to Connect With Anthony on Linkedin and Facebook
Anthony is the author of a soon to be launched FREE service for engineers called A Daily Boost from Your Professional Partner.  Click here to read about this service.

I recently completed a certified professional coach training program at the Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching (iPEC) and it was an amazing experience. I have to say I was extremely nervous going into it, being a civil engineer with a technical background, however I instantly fell in love with coaching and it is now totally natural for me.

As part of the training, one of the books we were required to read was “Breaking the Rules” by Kurt Wright.  The book focuses on being your best and how people and organizations can achieve their maximum potential.  The author states that being at your best cannot occur until you gain real-time access to your intuition or your “right brain.”  This was extremely scary to me being a civil engineer who operates mostly from the analytical portion of the brain or the “left-brain”, however as I read the book I became fascinated with the message.

The left and right hemispheres of your brain process information differently.  The left side of the brain processes information linearly, from part to whole.  It processes in a logical order; prior to drawing conclusions. The right brain processes in reverse from whole to part.  It starts with the end-result or solution.  It sees the big picture first, instead of all of the details.  Everyone tends to have a dominant side of the brain; however, the thinking process is improved when both sides of the brain participate equally known as whole brain thinking.

Engineers, and pretty much all of human civilization are always looking for “What’s wrong”? We are always analyzing situations to try to identify a problem so that we can fix it.  The author of the book states that by asking “What’s wrong?” questions, you cause all of your thinking to be done by the analytical part of your brain.  Asking “What’s wrong” questions constantly puts you into a negative state of mind.

So what’s the alternative?  How about start by asking the question “What’s right?” For example, let’s say you meet with your team on a certain project that is taking much longer than it should and likely will be over budget.  We are programmed to ask the team “What’s wrong?” and start discussing all of the problems on the project and try to figure out how to fix them.  What if you were to start by asking the team “What’s right?”  By reviewing all of the things that are working for the team, you can focus on applying some of your success to the lacking portions of the project, while maintaining a positive attitude and atmosphere within the team.  This brainstorming exercise will foster use of the right brain and move the team members towards whole brain thinking.

The thought behind the “What’s right?” mentality is that people are at their best when they are doing what they are good at and what they love to do. By focusing on people’s strengths you can ensure that they are extremely productive and engaged in what they are doing and thus the organization will be more effective as a whole.  So next time you are faced with a problem or a challenge, stop, be creative, access your right brain and explore all of the things that are right about the situation and see where that leads you!

Do you or anyone that you know follow the “What’s right?” mentality regularly?   How has it worked for you?

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Entry filed under: Career Development, Project Management, The Workplace, Uncategorized.

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12 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Anthony Fasano  |  February 2, 2010 at 4:11 pm

    That’s nice to hear Sarah, sounds like your CEO has a great attitude and his employees are following his lead!

    Reply
  • 2. Sarah Keilers  |  February 2, 2010 at 2:52 pm

    Anthony –

    So true – working at a smaller engineering firm here in Austin with a ton of projects, I’m sure it could be really difficult for us to look at each project as a whole (and what is going well!), instead of each project’s individual tasks and current failures… Our CEO actually does a really great job of aiming the conversation to focus on the positives and how we can help out each other along the way – I think that it even keeps the morale very high here.

    Reply
  • 3. Anthony Fasano  |  January 29, 2010 at 7:36 am

    HI Aixa! Thanks so much for the insightful feedback. That is exactly my point. We get so focused on what’s wrong we start looking for problems and spend so much energy trying to “perfectly” solve them.

    And I love your last though…..employee empowerment! That’s pretty much the reason I became a coach!

    Thanks again, keep in touch.

    Reply
  • 4. Anthony Fasano  |  January 28, 2010 at 5:22 pm

    Yes PM I agree that in some instances we need to see what did go wrong so it can be prevented in the future, especially when you are dealing with a technical issue. Thanks!

    Reply
  • 5. Aixa G. Lopez, PE  |  January 28, 2010 at 5:07 pm

    Totally agree with you Anthony! As an Industrial Engineer, our objective is always looking for the most productive way of doing things. However, sometimes we get so focused on the “quick fix” that we forget to look at the root cause of the situation or thinking out of the box.

    I always remember that when I was working as Director of Public Works, we often encountered situations on the construction sites. The top engineers were always looking for complicated and costly solutions. Solutions that were good, don’t get me wrong, but sometimes too costly to put them in place in a swiftly fashion.

    I used to go to the brigades and crews and asked them for their intake on the situation and “voila”…they would give us the most amaizing and cheapest solutions ever. Synergy works, creativity works but employee empowerment ?…. it works the best!

    Reply
  • 6. PM Hut  |  January 28, 2010 at 12:37 pm

    I like the what’s right mentality, much more positive, but still, we have to also ask what went wrong, otherwise we won’t be able to filter these things in the future.

    Reply
  • 7. Anthony Fasano  |  January 23, 2010 at 2:29 pm

    Thanks for the feedback Huro!

    Reply
  • 8. huro  |  January 23, 2010 at 1:44 pm

    I like it!

    Reply
  • 9. Anthony Fasano  |  January 21, 2010 at 9:26 pm

    I agree Jaafar that engineers fundamentally solve problems, however I think that there are different approaches we can take. Sometimes engineers may be taking something and making it better rather than “fixing” or “solving”. Maybe making it more sustainable.

    Overall I think there is more left brain thinking than whole brain thinking in the industry because of our training. That’s not wrong or bad, I just wonder how different things would be if more engineers were whole brain thinkers.

    Reply
  • 10. Rosiani Jaafar  |  January 21, 2010 at 10:54 am

    Engineering itself is something created to make life easier . Everything about enginerring either civil , electrical , mechanical and now adays we have all sorts of engineering it is about making our life easy and comfortable . That’s the foundation of engineering

    Engineer always want to enhance what already created before to a more advance design and conceot .

    II don’t think it is about ” what’s wrong ” or ” what’s right ” .

    What is important what is the best solution .

    Reply
  • 11. Anthony Fasano  |  January 20, 2010 at 9:19 pm

    Thanks for the feedback Wynn, I agree clients are tired of hearing of our problems. While I am all for being honest with your clients 100% and of course we have to tell them if there is a challenge we are faced with, however when is the last time you called up a client and said, “I just wanted to let you know things are running very smoothly and the project is coming along. Just wanted to let you know.”

    Reply
  • 12. Wynn L. White, P.E.  |  January 20, 2010 at 5:48 pm

    I think you’re spot-on. We engineers see the defects–and our clients (and employees) find it exhausting.

    I’m working on that myself.

    Reply

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