Magic RatioRebounding in a business relationship after a setback is tough. Heck, it’s tough in any relationship, isn’t it? While there is no “abracadabra” that fixes everything, there is a magic 5:1 ratio that can help you survive a fail, disappointment, or challenge.

Recently I made a huge error in judgment that negatively affected a colleague. It doesn’t matter if my intentions were in the right place, what happened impacted her in many ways: business, financial, and personal.

I felt terrible and tried to rectify the situation with the buyer, but to no avail. The damage was done.

I racked my brain for days trying to figure out how to make it up to her, how to express my heartfelt apologies, and see if we could move forward working together.

She didn’t answer emails or phone calls the entire week. I told myself I killed a very productive and collaborative relationship.

It was a big relief days later when we connected. She had been on vacation and not ignoring me or crying in the corner as I imagined. As I started my third apology, she said, “Stop. When someone whom I have a lot of ‘credits in the bank’ sincerely apologizes, I accept it and move on. We’re good.”

Wow. That was it. A lot of energy spent on my end and a big lesson learned. You can work through tough setbacks if you are “credit” worthy.

This situation got me thinking about research from John Gottman about the PNR – the Positive to Negative Ratio and its impact on trust, relationships, and business.

The Positive to Negative Ratio Impact

A quick introduction for those not familiar with the PNR: We have about 20,000 “moments” every day. A moment is defined as a few seconds in which our brain records an experience. Our brains recognize and categorize these moments – as positive, negative, or neutral. The state of the moments combine and over time, we have more positive, negative, or neutral feelings about another person.

What does this have to do with business? As a leader, we connect with many people throughout the day, directly or indirectly. Each of these connections creates an experience which contributes to whether the other person is positive, negative, or neutral toward us.

But that’s not all. The positive experiences don’t have to barely outnumber the negative ones – the positive experiences need to be 5 times more than the negatives in that relationship for it to be a positive relationship.

Additional research by Fredrickson and Losada found that work teams’ health is directly affected by their ratio of positive to negative experiences with managers and co-workers.

It’s why bad news, a challenge, or an error is sometimes more easily forgiven with some people. We have more “credits in the bank” with them.

John Gottman notes there is a “magic ratio” of 5 positive to easily move through 1 negative. The 5:1 is the magic ratio at minimum for healthy work relationships.

How to Build the Magic Ratio

Here are some specific ways to build positive experiences and the 5:1 ratio within your team:

  • Consistent communication – share information in different ways to ensure everyone gets the detail they need. Ask for ideas on how often and what format the communication should be shared. If you agree to a team or company meeting, keep it.
  • Create goal transparency – share goals, priorities, and plans early and often. Include the why, what, how, when, and what’s in it for Them. Regularly give updates on progress, barriers, and expectations.
  • Make time for the individual conversation – each person needs to know they personally matter. Have a conversation and learn about what is important to them, why they work, how they see the world and your company. The information helps you connect to them and to what’s important to them in all your connections.
  • Celebrate successes together – make the time to recognize and celebrate progress or successes which spreads feelings of shared good will.
  • Allow for healthy debate and disagreement – it really is okay to agree to disagree!

Consciously build the number of positive experiences you have with your team, leadership, customers, and colleagues and see how much easier it is to work through and recover from a negative situation when it occurs.

If you want to lead, coach, and grow your business, pay attention to each experience. Create more positive than negative experiences and trust, strong relationships, and synergy follow.

Two Opportunities to Grow Your Business!

genuine-sales-trans-250w The first ever live-facilitated virtual Genuine Sales begins October 18th. Details here. Or call me to discuss your situation and whether this course will be beneficial to you or your team 414.235.3064

sls-bostonSpecial Sales Leader Summit in Boston on September 21, 2016. Be my guest with FREE code: NancyBleeke

4 Success Drivers You Need to Know...and Grow


How do you strengthen this "Will" among your sales associates? How does the lack of drive impact your daily life? I discussed this and so much more on a recent virtual training event you can access below. It's valuable information for any business leader who needs to maximize performance of their people to grow their company.

Click here to access the replay.