“Rule 31”

For those of you that have followed me online for awhile, there are a few things that I hope you have come to know about me… I Love Jesus, I Love My Family, I Like Developing Leaders, I Love Encouraging My Boys, I Love Helping Others Win, I Like Sports and I Used To Be A Prison Warden. Speaking of sports and my boys, I love watching their games, teaching them and watching them grow as athletes and more importantly as young men.

One of the things that I have always had to balance when it comes to my boys and their athletics is atta’boys and encouragement vs. outlining areas for improvement. I have always tried to strike a balance of making sure I give enough encouragement and highlight the good before the bad. The natural bend can easily be to focus on the areas of improvement.

To combat that negative tendency my boys and I came up with the rule that has evolved into what we call the “Rule 31.” Rule 31 is basically this:

  • After a game, practice or competition, before anyone says anything about performance other than “Good Game,” our boys have to first point out “3 things they did well and 1 thing they can improve on.” They must start with the 3 positives first.
  • As parents if we agree we simply say “We agree” or if we saw things a little different then we can do the same thing, offer “3 things they did well and 1 thing they can improve on.”

Rule 31 was actually inspired from my days as a prison warden and specifically when I ran a Maximum Security Juvenile Facility. We tried to make sure that we had 3 times as many rewards as we did consequences. The 3-1 positive ratio seemed to be some sort of magic potion.

What “Rule 31” has done for us is allowed space to not say anything until our boys can self-evaluate. It gives us the opportunity to simply agree with their assessment and it allows all of us to accentuate the positive and call attention to the area of development.

Rule 31 is a great concept for leading teams, families, interactions with a spouse, teacher/pupil relationships, pastor congregants, trainer/trainee and the list goes on and on.

Accentuate the positive and allow individuals to self-assess, you’d be amazed the growth you will see both them and yourself.

What do you think? How do you see “Rule 31” working in your life?  

  • Long time reader, but somehow I never knew you were once a warden. Interesting.

    This is great advice. I struggle to find that balance all the time. Thanks!

    • ScottWilliams

      Yes… Maybe I have not talked about the timeI spent in prison often enough. 🙂

      Thx for comment

  • I think this rule 31 gives you the chance to think before you speak, to gather your thoughts and throw out the positives, but I also feel that constructive criticism is a good thing if done in the right way too. It’s good to teach children how to put a negative point of view across in the best way possible.

    • ScottWilliams

      Think before you speak has been huge… it’s easy to want to go in on what they could have done different before the sweat even dries on their forehead.

  • Randal Kay

    I think this idea fits into all areas of our lives. Home, work, play, interaction with neighbors and people “along the way.” And at Church!

    • ScottWilliams

      totally agre… its amazing how simple it is and how much sense it makes

  • Scott, first I’ve read and very much enjoy your blog for awhile and never knew you were a prison warden. Wow–missed that! I can imagine this philosophy there. Wow.

    I think you are right and a balance of positive/negative is good. I’m personally not in favor of a strict formula because it may seem contrived or fake, especially if the person knows what’s coming. When you say to an employee, “there’s just one thing you need to work on…” that person pretty much hears nothing else. (I know that was the case for me for a long time.) Maybe have one session with all the compliments, build the trust, and then a separate meeting that is with a positive tone, when the person knows you have their best interests at heart, to say honestly, I want to tell you one thing that we can change that may make the difference for you.

    I guess what I’m saying is I wouldn’t do any approach strictly as a formula.

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