Past Year Review – Switch from Negative Dwellers to Positive Finders

As a student of positive psychology for many years I know just how powerful focus and attention can be. This new approach to any end of year Review Process came about when I thought about how some previous reviews have gone in the past and by my hunger to make this time round the most effective it’s ever been and enjoyable for everyone involved.

I’m sure you’ve all heard of or took part in the What Works / What Doesn’t Work technique where the group lists down things that went well the previous year (or on the last project) and what didn’t work but I find these usually turn into a complaining session where the more negative members take over to voice all their grumbles and grievances. Where the complaints overpower the underlying requirement for solutions.

Usually the chair will continually try to direct the group onto the things that worked well or what could work better but more often than not the negative door is too wide open and stopping the moan fest proves extremely difficult.

The What Didn’t Work ends up 3 sheets deep, while the What Did Work is sparingly empty. The mood in the room spirals into despair!

When it gets like this it can be really draining for all involved. There’s no hope of getting out of the negative cycle let alone turning the mood of the room around to get everyone pulling towards solutions.

My new proposal is a three step structure, including Celebrating The Good, Improvements & Solutions, and Plan The Action.

Celebrating The Good

Spend the first hour (or longer if time permits) focusing on what we currently do well, where are our strengths, what things do we do that are key to our success. Get every person involved, at least one positive thing from each. If the group is small get two or three examples from each.

The reason for doing this step first is to get the mood of the group positive and start switching the focus of even the most draining complainers in the room from the bad to the good.

If you do this step correctly you will get so much more out of step 2.

Improvements & Solutions

Spend the next hour brainstorming improvements that could be made or solutions to challenges still outstanding. What areas could be built on and how could we do it.

Rather than the old adage of someone saying “communication internally is shocking” take it as an action, “we could improve how we communicate by having a regular meeting on the subject, cutting back on emails on the subject and instead have face to face meetings or video calls”.

Whatever the challenge is, look for solutions instead of just dwelling on the problem.

If you’ve carried out step 1 effectively most or all of the team should be looking for solutions instead of problems. Think of questions to be asking instead of stating the old obvious complaints.

Fill your Improvements & Solutions sheet with as many solutions and ideas as you can. Get one from each person if you can. Discuss the ones that are up there and fine tune them to make them even better.

Remembering to build on the positives and not get sucked into fault finding.

Plan The Action

With the room now in full flow with positive attitudes about the team and solution driven thoughts you can start a half hour planning session on how to implement the changes.

Take the full half an hour to plan out how to implement the solutions, assign tasks to the relevant people required and set achievable timelines.

I would also recommend setting a date for follow up meeting where the plan can be reviewed and further improvements suggested.

The whole idea is to create a positive environment for the review that will stick with the team going forward and develop a team with a solid solution based approach instead of a team that dwell on problems and hardships.

Thanks for reading. If you have any feedback or comments I’d love to hear them.


Scott J

Follow our blog at or find us on social media as below:

  • Twitter :

@ScottyJHam  &  @BestYouProject

  • Instagram:

@ScottyJHam & @BestYouProject

  • LinkedIn :


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.