Leaders Practice Good News Swapping


“If it bleeds it leads.” This little editorial cliché is more fact than fiction. Leaders must monitor the scoreboard in the contest between Encouragement and Criticism. Which kind of words are winning in your organization?

The news media is BIG on Bad. They are not alone. Watch a Little League game, listen to a parent admonish a child, or step into a business meeting. The negative is usually leading the positive.

God wants to use your leadership to help change the score.

What Does God Say?

Proverbs is God's practical wisdom for everyday living. Here a few things He has to say about the right way to use our words:

  • There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing. Proverbs 12:18 ESV
  • A cheerful look brings joy to the heart; good news makes for good health. Proverbs 15:30 NLT.
  • The wise of heart is called discerning,and sweetness of speech increases persuasiveness. Proverbs 16:21 ESV
  • Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body. Proverbs 16:24 ESV
  • Good news from far away is like cold water to the thirsty. Proverbs 25:25 NLT

Practice "Good News Swapping"

Max De Pree, a leadership mentor to many, says "The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say thank you. In between the two, the leader must become a servant and a debtor."[1]

It is in saying "thank you" that leaders practice the concept of "good news swapping." What is good news swapping? It is intentionally reinforcing the good news that we are hearing and seeing by sharing it with other people.

  • It is recognizing small victories and telling others about it.
  • It is praising an employee's effort and performance in front of a group of her peers.
  • It is cheering on a team's best effort even though the performance fell short of perfection.
  • It is publicly praising the suggestion of an employee despite the fact that it came wrapped in criticism.

Best-selling authors Tom Peters and Robert H. Waterman, note that “good news swapping” is common among the best companies. [2]

Here's How To Take Action

Practicing good news swapping is really as simple as 1-2-3 (okay, 1-2-3-4).

  1. Ask for God's help. We all needs eyes to see the strides others are making. The Lord will help us see these things if we ask him.
  2. Be specific. Saying "good job" doesn't really convey much. Those words are like the obligatory pat on the butt a pitcher receives from his manager as he walks off the mound. "Good job" is vanilla ice cream. It is plain and boring. Instead, we need to  acknowledge the specifics of what the person or team did: "Thanks for taking the time to follow-up with that disgruntled customer." "I appreciate that you were burning the midnight oil to finish this job." "We could not have hit our deadline if you had not rallied your team to make it happen."
  3. Reward small wins. Peters said, "Major gold banana events are not common, so the system should reward small wins."[3] In other words, we don't have to wait until someone "wins the Super Bowl" before we acknowledge their excellent contribution. In fact, there is a power to unpredictable and intermittent reinforcement.
  4. Share the good news with someone else. Thank a person in front of the entire team. Share a brief write up in a newsletter. Post your appreciation using social media.[4]

People’s souls are parched, and their hearts are faint. They need good news to quench their thirst and heal their hurt. One team has the power to give those people what they need, but that team needs more players. Will you join?

How can you practice Good News Swapping today?

[1]  Max De Pree, Leadership Is An Art, 11.

[2] Tom Peters, In Search Of Excellence, page 71.

[3] In Search Of Excellence, 71.

[4] These concepts were adapted from Peter's chapter, "Man Waiting For Motivation" in In Search Of Excellence, page 71.