Paul B. Thornton

How do you build confidence? Let me describe two scenarios and make some comparisons.

When my son, Andrew was in the eight-grade his first report card included these grades: four As, four Bs, and one C-. What grade do you think I focused on? The C-. I gave him the lecture. Andrew, you need to study harder, be more focused in class, do you homework more carefully, etc. By the time I finished, you would have thought he had flunked out of the eight grade!  Not good.

The second scenario involves Sam Walton, the founder of Wal-Mart Stories. Long before benchmarking was in vogue, Sam was out visiting his competitors. He studied what they did and borrowed some of their best ideas. On one trip, Sam and one of his vice presidents visited a poorly run store. It was dirty, employees weren’t customer focused, and the merchandise was poorly displayed. As Sam and his vice president walked back to their car, Sam said, “Did you notice in aisle four what a terrific job they are doing merchandising their sporting goods equipment?”

Sam Walton found and focused on the one positive aspect of the store. I, on the other hand, focused on Andy’s lowest grade—the C.  

The first rule of building confidence is to focus on the positive. Focus on the good things people are doing. Acknowledge their effort and positive results.

As Ken Blanchard has said, “Catch people doing things right.”

As “appreciative inquiry” has taught us—inquire about all the positive things that are happening and appreciate the good stuff. 

I should have said to Andy, “You got four As, that super outstanding. I am very proud of you and you should be very proud of yourself. Tell me what you did to excel in those four courses.”  


Paul B. Thornton is an author and speaker. His latest e-books include:

  • Is Your Organization Aligned? ($4.99) Amazon Kindle
  • Leadership-Perfecting Your Approach and Style-($1.99) Amazon Kindle. 
  • Leadership Case Studies-($4.99) Amazon Kindle.

Paul has produced 28 short YouTube videos (search Paul Thornton STCC) on various management and leadership topics. In addition, he frequently posts his views and opinions about leadership on Linked-In.  

He can be contacted at [email protected]