You know the type. They suck the life out of people and organisations (and no I won’t go down the Harry Potter/Dementor route here). They are the extreme but they do exist: always finding fault; always judging and criticising; focusing on weaknesses not strengths; resistant to anything new or different.
I’ll give you an example. A colleague of mine – really talented, highly experienced and certainly an individual – ended up working for a senior director who was in the habit of recruiting what can only be described as clones. Always with a similar background, always young and the same gender, always malleable. I’ll be writing about Inclusion next time so this isn’t my point here.
My point (or rant!) is that I watched as a breezy but ‘different’ individual who was always brimming with ideas was criticised and pretty much humiliated on a regular, sometimes daily, basis. To the extent that their performance dropped, their enthusiasm vanished, they hated coming to work and ultimately disengaged completely from their really important role in an organisation.
As I said: an extreme example but there are elements of this in too many workplaces. And I want to do something about it.
Just as I advocated Focusing on Strengths in my last post, in this one I am simply saying that more leaders need to do a related but different thing, and do it regularly.
This can take us in a couple of directions. Firstly Appreciative Enquiry. Nothing massively new here but far too few managers and leaders are aware of, let alone adopt, this frame of thinking. And if every leader tried to weave this into their approach then we’d be onto something:
- Focus on strengths, successes and positives
- Analyse and identify what is working – and what you can learn from what is working – as opposed to analysing what isn’t
- From the outset of any initiative: choose to identify positives rather than issues or ‘burning platforms’
- Think about your organisation when it is at its best and copy it – think about your people at their best and recognise what makes them so impactful
- When approaching any change amplify positives/successes and thus the associated positive energy
The other is a simple behavioural point – look for people who are doing good things and ensure your recognition is public. Look for someone’s successes and, other than when you need to address genuine under-performance, keep the focus there. Tell your teams what you like more than what you don’t.
Set the tone in your team and your business by being the positive person who appreciates. There really are enough people stalking the corridors of our companies who will do that cynical, destructive, unappreciative thing!