How to Lead from Possibilities
Kathryn Cramer calls this Lead Positive. “When you think, speak, and act out of the positive side of the ledger, others feel more hopeful and confident about the future.”
Cramer has created a 3-step process for reframing what we see, say and do so that we operate more from a positive outlook than a negative one.
What they SEE – how to see more of the possibilities than the problems of any given situation
What they SAY – how to connect the positive things you see to what you say to others
What they DO – how to use the positive trajectory of what you see and say to act intentionally
Cramer is the co-author with Hank Wasiack of the very good, Change the Way You See Everything Through Asset-based Thinking. She has taken those principles and applied them specifically to leaders and leadership. She writes:
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. [Reminds me a bit of the ideas found in Moneyball.] 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.Deficit-based thinking tends to be our default and is very draining on both ourselves and those around you. So ABT has to be a deliberate choice. ABT builds on what is working with people and in situations.
Our most difficult situations – the negative ones – are the ones that will benefit most from positive or asset-based thinking. For example, when people disagree with us it can quickly turn to anger. Cramer suggests that the best ABT strategy in response to conflicting points of view is to “be curious enough to find out why people oppose you.” It’s not about finding common ground – areas of agreement – but finding commonality – getting to a place where opposing parties understand where each other is coming from. “Curiosity sows the seeds of trust and creates opportunities to see value in somebody else’s points. When conflicting parties trust and can see the value in each other’s positions.”
Leading positive begins with you. It begins first with knowing your own assets – “to know beyond a shadow of a doubt who you are and what you are capable of.” We operate out of a perceptual set that biases our attention and what we see in any given situation. And that affects how we engage with those we lead.
Once you see yourself from a positive perspective you leverage the positive assets in the people around you.
Of Related Interest:
Change the Way You See Yourself
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Nice Companies Finish FirstNice Companies Finish First by Peter Shankman: "Being a selfish bastard who doesn't believe the rules apply to you simply won't get you very far."
Shankman cites a study where 700 people from a variety of industries reported on the treatment they received from their managers:
31% reported that their supervisor gave them the "silent treatment" during the year.
37% said that their supervisor failed to give credit when due.
39% noted that their supervisor didn't keep promises.
27% reported that their supervisor spoke negatively about them behind their back.
And it goes on. Not surprisingly, this kind of abusive behavior results in a work force that "experienced more exhaustion, job tension, nervousness, depressed mood and mistrust."
Shankman says your manager might be a jerk if they: are a know-it-all dictator, are uninterested in feedback, take sides unfairly and openly, are wasteful of resources, are a Desert Island boss (non-existent), a builder of empires, are a talker and not a doer, think adversaries work better than teams, or are in a constant cycle of crisis.
The Nine "Nice" Characteristics
Shankman then identifies nine "nice" characteristics that will eradicate "jerk" behavior beginning with "enlightened self-interest" since it underpins all of the others. A leader with enlightened self-interest will think in terms of the transactional benefits of everything they do. To be sure there are times when a leader must make unpopular decisions, but, says Shankman, "you can make beneficial decisions and lead your company to greatness without resorting to third-grade schoolyard tactics."
An enlightened leader is accountable, invests in others, consults with those affected by decisions, seeks counsel, expects the truth, reacts mindfully and positively to any situation.
The other traits he describes are:
Accessibility (Inaccessible, aloof CEOs can run successful businesses for a while, but in the long run, they make bad leaders.),
Strategic Listening (leadership is "a lot less about convincing people and more about benefiting from complex information and getting the best out of the people you work with. Listening for comprehension helps get you that information, of course, but it's more than that; it's also the greatest sign of respect you can give someone."),
Good Stewardship (Good stewardship is about responsible management and ethical standards that are in sync with the concerns of all of the constituents who are important to your business, including shareholders, stakeholders, investors, neighbors, and communities.),
Loyalty (360 Loyalty–loyal to what works for the whole company and for all good employees.),
Glass-Half Full POV (Seeing the difference between "Everything's OK!" and "Everything will be OK if we do the following things."),
Customer Service-Centric ("Makes it easy for people to become and stay customers in every way possible." Serving first selling second.),
Merit-Based Competitor (Compete by differentiation. It's OK to be nice to your competition. Kill them with kindness.), and
Gives a Damn ("Turning down the easy buck to instead do the right thing is one of the hardest choices we have to make.").
You can't fake being nice. "As communication becomes more fluid, leaders will be more exposed. We won't be able to hide anything anymore."
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3 Ways to Be a Positive Leader
This is a guest post by best-selling author and speaker, Jon Gordon about the value of developing positive relationships with the people you lead.
In a world filled with busyness and stress, I find that too often leaders can act like hard-charging, fast-driving bus drivers that have a vision and goal within their sights and they’ll run over anyone – even their own employees – to reach their destination. I know this well because early in my business career I was that kind of leader and I have had to work hard to change my approach.
I realized that any hard-charging leader can create success in the short term, but it would take a positive leader with a people and process-driven approach to build a successful organization for the long term.
As John Maxwell said, “If you are all alone at the top, you are not a leader. You are a hiker.”
No one creates success alone. To win in business, you must win with people. Running over people will only get you so far. To create true and lasting success you must nurture and invest in your people. Here are 3 essential ways to do this.
Care about them – The main question every employee in every organization is asking is, “Do you care about me; can I trust you?” Employees want to know if you care about them. If you do, they will be more likely to stay on the bus and work with you. Employees are more engaged at work and will work at their highest potential when their manager cares about them.
Develop a relationship with them – Author Andy Stanley once said, “Rules without relationship lead to rebellion.” Far too many managers and leaders share rules with their people, but they don’t have a relationship with them. So what happens? The people rebel, and they disengage from their jobs and the mission of the team. I’ve had many managers approach me and tell me that my books helped them realize they needed to focus less on rules and invest more in their work relationships. The result was a dramatic increase in team performance and productivity. To develop a relationship with your employees, you need to build trust, listen to them, make time for them, recognize them and mentor them.
Appreciate them – The main reason why people leave their jobs is because they don’t feel appreciated. For example, Doug Conant, the CEO of Campbell Soup, has written more than 16,000 thank-you notes to employees in the past seven years and created a very positive business in the process. It’s as easy as saying (or writing) “Thank you.”
It’s a simple truth: When you care about your employees and the people you work with, they are more likely to stay on the bus and work harder, with more loyalty and greater positive energy. In turn, they are more likely to share their positive energy with your customers, thus enhancing service and the bottom line. The greatest customer-service strategy has nothing to do with customer service, but it has everything to do with how you treat your employees. If you model great service, they will provide great service.
Remember, leadership is not just about what you do, but what you can inspire, encourage and empower others to do. Instead of running over the people in your team/organization, invite them on the bus with you and engage them to help you create an amazing and successful ride.
Jon Gordon is the Wall Street Journal and international bestselling author of a number of books including The Energy Bus: 10 Rules to Fuel Your Life, Work and Team with Positive Energy, and his latest, The Seed: Finding Purpose and Happiness in Life and Work. Learn more at JonGordon.com. Follow Jon on Twitter @JonGordon11 or Facebook www.facebook.com/jongordonpage. Jon has also made avialable free webinars and teleseminars and other useful resources on his website.
From Values to ActionFrom Values to Action. He presents four interconnected principles that build on and contribute to each other:
Self-Reflection is the most important and is central to your leadership. “If you are not self-reflective, how can you truly know yourself?” writes Kraemer. “If you do not know yourself, how can you lead yourself? If you cannot lead yourself, how can you possibly lead others?”
Self-reflection allows you to transform activity into productivity for all the right reasons. It means “you are surprised less frequently.” It is essential in setting priorities. You can’t do everything. So reflection makes it possible to answer key questions like What is most important? and What should we be doing? in a way that is in line with your strengths and values and organizational goals.
Engaging in self-reflection on a regular, ongoing basis (preferably daily) keeps you from becoming so caught up in the momentum of the situation that you get carried away and consider actions and decisions that are not aligned with who you are and what you want to do with your life.Balance and Perspective is the ability to understand all sides of an issue. Pursuing balance means you will have to grasp the fact that leaders don’t have all the answers. Kraemer says, “My task was to recognize when a particular perspective offered by one of my team members was the best answer….Leadership is not a democracy. My job as the leader is to seek input, not consensus.”
Because he believes we are more effective if we balance all areas of our life, he prefers the term “life balance” over “work-life balance.” It’s not an either or proposition. “When you identify too closely with your work, you can easily lose perspective and become unable to look at all angles in a situation.” He recommends implementing a “life-grid” to keep track of where you are spending your time and to hold yourself accountable.
True Self-Confidence is know what you know and you don’t know; to be comfortable with who you are while acknowledging that you still need to develop in certain areas. (Comfortable not complacent.) Why TRUE self-confidence?
There are people who adopt a persona that might make others think that they have self-confidence, but they are not the real deal. Instead, they possess false self-confidence, which is really just an act without any substance. These individuals are full of bravado and are dominating. They believe they have all the answers and are quick to cut off any discussion that veers in a direction that runs contrary to their opinions. They dismiss debate as being a complete waste of time. They always need to be right—which means proving everyone else wrong.Genuine Humility is born of self-knowledge. Never forget where you started. “Genuine humility helps you recognize that you are neither better nor worse than anyone else, that you ought to respect everyone equally and not treat anyone differently just because of a job title.”
After describing each of these principles, Kraemer explains how these four elements play in everyday situations such as talent management and leadership development (“The values based leader is looking for people who exhibit the values that are most important to her.”), setting a clear direction (You’ve been tasked with creating a quick strategy, the first step is to listen. “This is precisely the time that you need to draw upon the capabilities of the excellent team you’ve put together.”), communication (“Never assume you have communicated enough.”), motivation (“What you must do is relate to others by letting them know who you are and the values you stand for.”), and execution (“As you become a leader, you will shift from knowing the right answers to asking the right questions.”).
Kraemer describes a values-based leader well: “Self-reflection increases his self-awareness. Balance encourages him to seek out different perspectives from all team members and to change his mind when appropriate in order to make the best possible decisions. With true self-confidence, he does not have to be right, and he easily shares credit with his team. Genuine humility allows him to connect with everyone because no one is more important than anyone else.”
From Values to Action is an outstanding book and filled with important concepts that any would-be leader would benefit from.
Of Related Interest:
Taking Another Look: Leading Minds on Reflection Part 4
Taking Another Look: Leading Minds on Reflection Part 3
Taking Another Look: Leading Minds on Reflection Part 2
Taking Another Look: Leading Minds on Reflection Part 1
Consider: Harnessing the Power of Reflective Thinking in Your Organization
10 Ways to Make Others ShineEarl Miller, a neuroscientist at MIT says, “Success has a much greater influence on the brain than failure.” Ned Hallowell comments in Shine: While of course mistakes need to be acknowledged and, one hopes, learned from, it may be more likely, from a purely neurological point of view, that a person will learn more from a success than a failure.”
Hallowell points out that acknowledgment or recognition serves two important functions. Of course there is the familiar purpose of giving the recipient encouragement, motivation and greater confidence, but recognition also promotes moral behavior through connection. Hallowell explains: “When a person feels recognized and connected to the larger group, she knows viscerally, not just intellectually, that she has made a contribution others value. Not only does this motivate her to do more and try harder, but it instills a desire to look out for the larger group…. It leads a person to do the right thing even when no one is looking.”
Showing appreciation and giving recognition is part of the Cycle of Excellence process he calls shine. In our busy culture it is easy to overlook opportunities to acknowledge others. Noticing the positive is a daily challenge. In Shine, Hallowell offers these ten tips for promoting shine with the people you influence:
How do you make others feel valued?
The Cycle of Excellence: 5 Steps to Peak Performance
The Cycle of Excellence: 5 Steps to Peak Performance
In Shine: Using Brain Science to Get the Best from Your People, Hallowell, combines brain science and performance research to help you get the most out of people’s brains (including your own). To ignite peak performance, he has created a process called the Cycle of Excellence. It is a five step process, that when followed completely, leads to excellence. The steps are:
Unfortunately the modern world works against us. Hallowell has identified two paradoxes of modern life. First, “While we have grown electronically superconnected, we have simultaneously grown emotionally disconnected from each other.” Disconnection short-circuits the Cycle of Excellence more quickly than anything else. “Disconnection is one of the chief causes of substandard work in the modern workplace. But it is one of the most easily corrected.”
The second paradox is that “people’s best efforts often fail not because they aren’t working hard enough, but because they are working too hard.” Overwhelmed with data, we try to compensate by working harder trying to process more data. What we should be doing is erecting boundaries to regulate what we allow in. Leaders need to be helping people to regulate their lives and manage technology rather than pushing them to do more. Greater connection and engagement will result.
Dispute Catastrophic ThoughtsWarren Bennis wrote in Leader to Leader that “every exemplary leader that I have met has what seems to be an unwarranted degree of optimism—and that helps generate the energy and commitment necessary to achieve results.”
Optimism says Bennis, “the sense that things generally work out well, creates tremendous confidence in oneself and in those around one.” Optimism helps leaders to be more resilient as they tend to believe in their capacity for self control and the ability to overcome obstacles that come their way. In short, I would say, optimism is finding perspective.
The Optimism Advantage, Terry Paulson offers fifty truths for cultivating optimism beginning with “Life is Difficult.” (Perhaps not what you would expect from a book on optimism.) He writes, “If you want to be a true optimist, start by being a realist. Accept that life is difficult, and then get busy learning as much as you can about the challenges you face. Why? Because you’ve overcome problems in the past, you have every reason to believe that you’ve got what it takes to overcome whatever problems life deals you.”
One important place to begin is with our negative thoughts and feelings. Optimists dispute catastrophic thoughts, those “feelings that everything is wrong and that nothing is going to change.” Paulson says that “means you have to be ready to argue with some of your negative beliefs.” Optimism is “about facing and taking advantage of reality—even unsettling reality. Expecting unrealistic results may actually increase your dissatisfaction….To an optimist, it’s all about resilience and maximizing your results.”
Start with understanding what it is you’re saying to yourself that is causing a bigger problem in your thinking. Clarify it and then take a critical look at your beliefs and dispute them. Are they valid? Is there another way to look at this? Seek alternate explanations. Optimists ask, “Is there any less destructive way to look at this or explain what happened?” Look for causes that you can overcome and focus on what can be changed and then take action.
Lift: How to Be a Positive Force in Any SituationTo overcome the force of gravity—that which pulls us down—we have to generate an opposing force greater than gravity. That force is lift. Any opposition to lift is called drag.
In the same way that we use the laws of physical science to lift a plane off the ground, we can use social science to lift “ourselves and others up to greater heights of achievement, integrity, learning, and love,” thereby becoming a positive force in any situation. It’s the pressures of daily living that drag us down. Instead of experiencing lift we fall back into our comfort zones, become reactive, self-centered and fatalistic.
To intentionally experience lift and to be a positive influence for others, we have to make a conscious choice.
Lift: Becoming a Positive Force in Any Situation, authors Ryan and Robert Quinn present this fitting metaphor, to explain how we can intentionally experience lift, to rise above the constraints of everyday life and lift the people around us. “All of us have a choice: we can choose to be the kind of people who drag others down or to be the kind of people who lift…. We are relational beings. Who we are at any time depends on who the people around us are, and who they are depends on who we are.” That last sentence can’t be overemphasized. It carries with it a great deal of responsibility, especially for us as leaders.
The authors describe lift as “a psychological state in which a person is purpose-centered, internally directed, other-focused, and externally open.” What exactly are these four characteristics of lift? In a very relatable and revealing example—the parenting of a young son, Mason—the authors show how this plays out in real life. I can’t reproduce the example here, but I think from the inferences you will get the idea the authors are trying to convey. The following is paraphrased from their work:
Purpose-centered is the opposite of being comfort-centered. The desire to stay comfortable is a characteristic of a normal psychological state. My son Mason’s behaviors were comfortable for me. In my desire for comfort, what had not occurred to me was the possibility that perhaps Mason was behaving differently because of the changes that had happened recently in his life. We need to ask, “Are the results I am trying to create about me and what I am comfortable with or are they about what is best for the other person?”
Internally directed is when people experience the dignity and integrity that comes with exercising the self-control necessary to live up to the values that they expect of others. External direction, on the other hand, is a characteristic of a normal psychological state.
If Mason was building with his Legos or playing a game when I asked him to do something, I expected him to put those things aside and do it. Yet, if I was involved in an activity and Mason interrupted me, I would expect him to wait until I was done with my activity before I did what he asked. I expected him to show respect to me, but I was not doing the same for him....When people are externally directed, they let circumstances (such as the need to get Mason to clean up or go to bed) drive their behavior instead of their values (such as respect for others’ time and activities).Other-focused is to be open to other people’s feelings and needs. We then empathize with them and feel impulses to be compassionate. When we are self-focused, we are concerned only with our own needs, feelings, and wants. We see other people as objects that either help us or impede us in our goals. In my case, Mason was an object that was preventing me from my goal of showing that I was a good father.
Externally open is openness to external cues. When we are open we learn, grow and adapt ourselves to the situation unfolding before us. When we are internally closed, we ignore and deny feedback. We ignore or deny feedback out of fear that the feedback says something about our worth as human beings. So as a result, we tend to get angry. Again with Mason, I was not showing him the respect that I wanted him to show me. As I opened myself to the possibility that I might be wrong, I also opened myself up to what Mason was feeling, and to what his needs might be and became other-focused.
Using scientific research to provide “insight into why lift is important, what the characteristics of lift are, and how our psychological states influence others,” they formulated four questions that capture the nuances required to intentionally move ourselves from a normal state into lift.
When a new situation disrupts our previous expectations, though, it is more productive to change our expectations than to try to make the world conform to our old expectations.The book is full of great examples and scientific evidence to back their perspective. The scientific evidence is really just icing on the cake. The relational principles at work here are sound, but they require much thought and self-examination. This is a book that needs to be read and re-read. Inertia is our biggest enemy. Inertia will keep us from benefiting from this book and becoming a positive force; the kind of leaders that provide lift in our own lives and those we influence.
5 Leadership Lessons: Getting Your Relationships Right
When we think of leadership we naturally regard the objective and view with suspicion the subjective. We value hard data over soft data; reason over instinct; the external world over the internal world. John Townsend writes that “Great leaders succeed by harnessing the power of both the external world and the internal world. You, as a leader, are probably more trained, prepared, and experienced in the external world than you are in the inner one.”
Townsend wrote Leadership Beyond Reason to help you understand and utilize the soft skills – that which is beyond reason. He says “you ignore what is beyond reason at your own peril….Leading from your inner world ultimately produces better results in your leadership.”
He divides our inner world into five areas: values, thoughts, emotions, relationships and transformation. As leadership is about connecting with those you lead and a primary focus of leadership, let’s pull five lessons from Townsend on relationships:
“You internalize anyone who is significant to you, past and present. As well, the people you are leading are currently internalizing you. As a leader, you have the responsibility of knowing that people are storing mental and emotional pictures of how you relate to and lead them.” These are our relational images. It reminds me of a quote from Shakespeare, “There is a history in all men's lives.” This includes you too. We relate to others in ways that others have related to us. This of course has an impact on the connections we can make with others.
Develop good and healthy relational images. “Take in the good and forgive and grow from the bad.” He explains, “Some of your own significant relationships may have been with people who were cold, controlling, manipulative, self-centered, critical, or even abusive. This can create distorted or nonfunctioning pictures of how relationships should work.” Is your leadership drawing on images that don’t work for you?
“An important relational ability for leaders is to see people as separate from you and from their roles with you. Your people want to work with you, or they wouldn’t be with you. But you aren’t their reason for existing. They have lives, dreams, and concerns of their own. You need to be able to identify and understand that. Sometimes leaders assume everyone has the vision as strongly as they do or are as committed as they are. That can be a mistake and can undo what you are trying to accomplish with them.”
“Relationship provides the bridge over which truth can be conveyed. In your leadership, your people will experience truth in the absence of relationship as harshness, judgment, or condemnation. They will resist it and refuse it, either actively or subtly. Truth is hard to swallow if you don’t feel connected with the truth teller. That is why being “for” the other person, letting them know that, and being as emotionally accessible as possible, at the time of the reality, is critical.” Often “counseling” or performance appraisals derail on this issue as no sense of being “for” the other person has been established. Trying to develop a relationship “at the time of the reality” is too late. Do it now.
“The better you can relate, the better you will be able to influence and motivate…. Passion is ignited when the real self connects with the right task environment…. You can’t create passion, not for yourself or for anyone else. Your job is to create the right environment for the chemistry to happen. You do this by personal research. You must spend the energy to know your people and learn which tasks intersect with their passions. It will be different for different individuals; it’s not a one-style-fits-all program. But when you develop this relational ability, and get to know the insides of your people, the value and benefits are enormous.
Developing your relational abilities will help you read the landscape. Townsend adds, “The leader who misses relational aspects is surprised when people become distant, resentful, or just leave. The relational leader sees the signs coming a long way away and has time to do something about them.”
Are You a Perfectionist or an Optimalist?
Perfectionism – the maladaptive and neurotic belief that you and/or your environment must be perfect and that work or output that is anything less than perfect is unacceptable – is not something that you are born with. It is developed. Contrary to the goal they seek, perfectionists are focused on failure.
There’s a difference between setting high standards that spur us on and seeking perfection that demoralizes us. In The Pursuit of Perfect, author Tal Ben-Shahar refers to the two approaches as perfectionism and optimalism. Most of us are a little of both. “We may be Optimalists in some areas of our lives and Perfectionists in others. For example, we may be quite forgiving of mistakes we or others make on the job but be thrown into despair when our expectations are not fully met in our relationships.” Consider these statements:
The key difference between the Perfectionist and the Optimalist is that the former essentially rejects reality while the latter accepts it.
Ben-Shahar discusses these ideas in detail and then shows how they apply to and play out in education, the workplace and in relationships. He offers exercise and meditation to help you reorient your thinking and move from perfectionist thinking to optimalist thinking.
It’s easy to see from his approach and the advice given in this book, why his Harvard course in “Positive Psychology,” is the most popular class in the university’s history. Read it. I’m certain you’ll benefit.
How do you know if you're a perfectionist? Psychology Today offers a self-test on their web site.
Take the Greater Than Yourself ChallengeGreater Than Yourself.
The Greater Than Yourself (GTY) concept is based on the premise that great leaders become great because they cause others to be greater than they are. GTY is a one-on-one development process where you choose to help someone become more capable, competent, and accomplished than you are. It has three parts to it: Expand Yourself, Give Yourself and Replicate Yourself.
The life-long process begins with you. “You have to expand yourself before you can help make others greater.” That means that you have to make sure that everything that is you is constantly expanding. No matter how much you think you know or are, “you can always learn more, you can always experience more, you can always connect more and love more.” The point of which is to give it all away.
Giving it all away always brings out the cynics. But Farber deals with that too. Giving it all away seems to imply subtraction – like a zero-sum-game – to many people. But it’s not. Giving it all away really adds to who you are. Parents get it, but when we get outside that relationship, an improper self-interest kicks in and we miss the bigger picture.
In this business fable set along the California coast, Faber skillfully explains the true nature of giving it all away to become a creator of masters. GTY has life changing possibilities if you commit to it. Expanding yourself “is a practice that should become part of your life. Integrate it into your thought process and into the way you make decisions. Will X add to your inventory? Will it expand an item that is already there? If so, do it; if not, don’t.”
When you think of giving of yourself, money may not be part of it. You have other resources like “your talent, your knowledge, your connections, your confidence, your trust” and last but not least, “your time.”
In the end you want to replicate yourself. That is, you want to make sure that the people you elevate are doing the same for others.
In an organizational context, it might look like this: “Everyone on my team and in our company should become significantly greater as a result of working with one another.” But, “I’m not trying to hire people who are more talented than me, I’m trying to hire people with heart, desire, drive and mad potential, and then encourage all of them to bring out the best in one another by giving fully to one another. See the difference?”
Farber admits that this isn’t easy to do initially. In response, he challenges us to pick just one person to make a GTY project. “Raise that person; boost him or her above yourself. Start there and see what happens.”
He has created a web site with examples and resources to get you going. In particular, there is a four minute video of a GTY project conducted by the Up With People organization, that is a good overview of what this is all about and the impact it can have. The participants in this GTY project don’t rule out that great things can come in small packages. The tendency is to pick someone who is already doing well and then working to make them greater; jump on their bandwagon so to speak. There’s certainly nothing wrong in that, but perhaps the most impact can come from taking someone who really needs a leg up and connecting them to what they need.
Take the Greater Than Yourself Challenge. Pick one person and give of yourself to make their life better—than yours!
u > i
Positive Relationships: It's About ThemWe know that friendships at work tend to enhance and increase productivity and performance, but the reason why positive relationships produce these results is not what is commonly believed. A study cited in Positive Leadership by Kim Cameron, revealed that:
it is what people give to a relationship rather than what they receive from the relationship that accounts for the positive effects. Although it is clear that positive relationships are advantageous to psychological, emotional, and physical health, research has found that it is the contributions made to others that account for the advantages.
Bad Is Stronger Than GoodIn an article that appeared in the Review of General Psychology titled Bad Is Stronger Than Good (PDF), the authors—Baumeister, Bratslavsky, Finkenauer and Vohs—conclude that bad events have stronger and more lasting consequences than comparable good events. This is probably for good reason as “a person who ignores the possibility of a positive outcome may later experience significant regret at having missed an opportunity for pleasure or advancement, but nothing directly terrible is likely to result. In contrast, a person who ignores danger (the possibility of a bad outcome) even once may end up maimed or dead. Survival requires urgent attention to possible bad outcomes, but it is less urgent with regard to good ones. Hence, it would be adaptive to be psychologically designed to respond to bad more strongly than good.” What does this mean to leaders?
“Consequently,” writes Kim Cameron in Positive Leadership, “individuals in general—and especially leaders in organizations who are constantly confronted by problems, threats, and obstacles—have a tendency to focus on the negative much more than the positive.” But leaders need to think differently. Cameron continues:
Positive leaders are unusual in that they choose to emphasize the uplifting and flourishing side of organizational life, even in the face of difficulty. It is not that they ignore the negative or adopt a Pollyannaish perspective, but they counter the tendency toward negativity with an abundance of positivity. In the absence of such emphasis, negative inclinations overwhelmed the positive and a negative climate is the default option.Positive leadership requires thinking that goes contrary to our natural tendencies. It requires an intentional effort to encourage behaviors that enable a positive climate.
Positive LeadershipThe Harvard Business Review recognized Positive Organizational Scholarship as one the Breakthrough Ideas of 2004. Kim Cameron, cofounder of the Center for Positive Organizational Scholarship at the University of Michigan, has presented some of the ideas coming out of that research in Positive Leadership: Strategies for Extraordinary Performance.
The ideas are not necessarily new but the emphasis is. The focus is on the role of leaders in enabling positive deviant performance or outcomes that dramatically exceed common or expected performance. Cameron says that most organizations focus on maintaining performance that is predictable and steady. He is talking instead, about creating an organization that is not just coping but is flourishing (positive deviancy).
Creating an organization where people can positively exceed expectations is highly coveted any time, but is more important in difficult times. Flourishing organizations and breakout performance requires positive deviancy—going beyond the norm in a positive direction.
The idea is that individuals and organizations produce life-giving and flourishing outcomes when organizational strategies are based on the positive. (think Heliotropic Effect) He writes:
In sum, positive leadership refers to an emphasis on what elevates individuals and organizations (in addition to what challenges them), what goes right in organizations (in addition to what goes wrong), what is life-giving (in addition to what is problematic or life-depleting), what is experienced as good (in addition to what is objectionable), what is extraordinary (in addition to what is merely effective), and what is inspiring (in addition to what is difficult or arduous).He presents four of the most important, interrelated and mutually reinforcing strategies that leaders can implement in an organization. (These ideas work in families as well.) They are shown below:
Positive Climate: “Leaders significantly affect organizational climate as they personally induce, develop, and display positive emotions.” Research cited in the book concludes that inducing positive emotions “broaden people’s momentary thought-action repertoires and builds their enduring personal resources.” Conversely, “Negative emotions narrow people’s thought-action repertoires and diminish their coping abilities.”
Positive Relationships: People in positive social relationships, “significantly outperformed acquaintance groups on both decision-making and motor tasks.” Interestingly, “Relationships that help people contribute to the benefit of others, rather than merely receive support from them, are the most valuable.”
Positive Communication: “The single most important factor in predicting organizational performance—which was more than twice as powerful as any other factor—was the ratio of positive statements to negative statements.” And we’re not talking about 100 to 1 here. Research revealed that the ratio was about 5 to 1 in high-performing organizations. There is a time and place for constructive negative communication.
Positive Meaning: “Reinforcing the benefits produced for others, associating work outcomes with the core values of employees, identifying the long-term impact created by the work, and emphasizing contribution goals more than achievement goals all foster a sense of meaningfulness and, as a result, higher levels of performance.”
Positive Leadership is a short book, but it's long on vital information that a leader in any context would benefit from. While based in empirical research, the ideas presented here will resonate with you. Practiced, they will greatly benefit your corner of the world.
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