Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Accentuating the Positive for Better Results – Especially Now




Today's post is written by ICC's Co-Founder, Barbara Hughes.

It sure is hard to avoid the negative these days; I’d have to live in a cave with no social media, television, Web or radio to escape the relentless grind of bad news occasionally interspersed with glimmers of hope. We know the cumulative effect on our personal and work lives in terms of morale, feelings of isolation, and, yes, fear. But, what if we accentuated the positive at work? What if we talked about what we’ve done well and what has been accomplished even in the face of such negative news? Would the cumulative effect of positive news counteract and even overcome the negative?


This was the premise of an interesting article last week in Business Week by Fred Collopy, a professor at Case Western Reserve University. Professor Collopy calls our rush to a solution based on framing a problem as “Deficit Thinking”: focusing on what’s wrong and problems that need to be solved.

Managers’ jobs have evolved from “thinkers” and “planners” into “fixers” and “solution providers” and the solutions had better be delivered ASAP. Professor Collopy says that we spend so much time thinking about what’s wrong with our businesses that we overlook what’s right and the result often is sacrificing a great solution for an expedient one. So, what have we got to lose by trying to accentuate the positive in our work and see where it can go? We could be amazed by the results not only in terms of new and better solutions but also an improved outlook on ourselves and our futures.

I have a client who recently wrote a State of the Company paper to his employees and called it the “We Do Not Know How to Quit Strategy”. It sure beats a “Why We Have to Survive Strategy” for reframing the challenges and making them opportunities. Here is an outline of what this very courageous and entrepreneurial CEO wrote to his people:

• Do your job with character and integrity. Nothing is more important!

• Spend quality time learning our customers’ businesses, as well as their particular challenges.

• Create action plans for delivering products and services to our customers that will help them be successful.

• Bring all of our company’s products and services to our customers; never stop asking for an opportunity.

• Be responsive to our customers and suppliers by offering the best service anywhere in our industry.

• Care about the success of fellow employees and our customers and encourage each other to believe that success is possible during these challenging times if we stick together and become a partner in the success of our customers and suppliers.

• Strengthen your belief in yourself, your fellow employees and our company.

My CEO friend ends his message with, “I remain 100% confident we will be very successful. Times are tough but we are tougher! Our future is very bright so go buy a pair of sunglasses and get ready!”

Rather than focus on things outside the control of the employees, this CEO modeled behaviors for his team to lift them up and remind them of what they can control and that how they do their jobs can make a difference. He accentuated the positive and stayed away from “Deficit Thinking”. In my view, this is a better way to lead and to work in these tough times. What do you think?
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