kathyheadshot-213x300Kathryn D. Cramer, Ph.D. is an author, speaker, and coach who helps people reframe their experiences and thoughts into a more growth-minded view. She calls it Asset-Based Thinking (ABT). We asked Kathy to share her ideas with the Growth Mindset Community. Her views and advice on feedback and mistakes add another layer to what we are learning about mindsets.

Kathy's Message

Asset-Based Thinking (ABT) means to look at yourself and the world through the eyes of what is working, what strengths are present, and what the potentials are. Conversely, deficit-based thinking means to look at yourself and the world in terms of what is not working, what is lacking, and the gaps between where you are and where you want to be.

With ABT you are more ready and able to Magnify What's Best in other people. When you can see and say what is best – strong, useful or valuable – in someone else, the person feels worthwhile in your eyes and the trust between you grows.

 Recently, I attended a conference on Leader as Coach, facilitated by Mark Rittenberg, Founding Director and CEO of Corporate Scenes, Inc. Mark's research findings on the question, "What do people want most at work?" reveals four top priorities:


1. To be seen
2. To be heard
3. To be recognized
4. To make a contribution

Think about these four desires for a moment. Notice that no one can realize any of them in isolation. With ABT feedback a person can feel seen, heard or recognized. With ABT feedback people can be certain they have made a contribution. ABT feedback helps others perform at exceptional levels and achieve extraordinary outcomes by elevating and inspiring them.

Give ABT Feedback in Real Time

See and say what others are doing well. Everyone is encouraged by appreciation, recognition and admiration. Criticism and negativity deflate and discourage the quality and quantity of effort. It's not always easy to see and point out others' assets in a way that is genuine and specific. Especially when we are busy, other people's mistakes can seem to stand out more than their achievements do. To reverse this DBT habit, try this instead: every week this month, be on the lookout for right actions and personal bests of other people at work and at home.

Extend your ABT feedback by giving details about positive impacts. You can say, "The positive impact on me was..." and "The positive impacts on the group (or team, family, organization) were..." When you offer this type of specific, appreciative feedback, you hone your own ABT powers of observation. Simultaneously, you build emotional equity in your relationships that increases trust and openness. This ABT practice is a rare gift that lets other people know, in clear and certain terms, how they have made a difference. Remember, other people cannot "see" themselves clearly. It takes your ABT feedback for them to see how much they truly matter.

Provide 5:1 ABT Performance Feedback

In order to lead, motivate, and connect with others, we need to spend the majority of ourChange the way you see effort on the positive side of the ledger. A 5:1 ratio is the goal. This means you focus five times more on the strengths and talents of others than you do on their shortcomings. This ratio is a major shift for most people, especially when it comes to giving performance feedback. As a manager or supervisor, we often believe that pointing out areas for improvement will be the most helpful.

In practice, you will find that constructive, improvement-oriented feedback is only helpful in small doses and needs to be positioned in a context of appreciative, strengths-oriented feedback. The ABT practice of providing five times more information about how a person is performing well (in contrast to what that person needs to do to improve performance) provides a foundation for capitalizing on strong suits while improving in one well-defined area.

About Kathy Cramer

Dr. Cramer has written seven bestselling books including Change the Way You See Everything, which started the ABT Global Movement. She also won an Emmy, and was twice featured on the Oprah Winfrey Show, the highest rated talk show in American television history.  She delights in laughter the great elixir, is inspired by heroic stories of people overcoming adversity and "turning it on its ear," and is on a noble quest to add the term "Asset-Based Thinking" to next year's edition of Merriam Webster's dictionary. Kathy is a psychologist and a dedicated, founding member of the ABT Global "Minds on Fire" Movement.