Several weeks of saturation Olympic and Paralympic coverage by the BBC and Channel 4 here in the UK has left most of us feeling very proud, sated with sport and, dare I say, happy! The successes just kept on coming as the GB team surpassed all expectations and reached a record medal haul for an overseas games. The UK news seemed to reveal new successes and interesting back stories every morning and, for a change, I actually looked forward to the morning news bulletin for my fix of good news stories to start my day. The positive focus really did make a difference as family, colleagues, neighbours and friends all talked of our successes in Rio. The sun was shining that bit brighter and all of a sudden it seemed the world was somehow a better place to live in.
What a contrast to the preceding weeks of Brexit debates that made some people feel like the sky was falling in!
I did wonder what happened to all of the bad news during that Olympic fortnight? Where did it all go? The reality was of course it was still there, as it always is, but the GB news agenda was in an uncharacteristically optimistic mood. So, bad news was relegated to the back of the bulletins in much the same way the good news is usually left to a “and finally….”story.
There are lessons here for leaders in the way they talk about the latest news in their organisations. The gap between aspiration and reality is the leaders playground and as a result they are often caught talking about what still needs to be done, the challenges that lie ahead, the issues we still face, etc. Any good news is often skipped over and relegated to the end of the meeting in case dwelling on such good news makes us lose sight of the many things that still need to be done. Celebrating success is not something that comes naturally to many leaders and managers and indeed the whole process of saying “well done, good job” can sometimes feel a bit embarrassing to us Brits.
Not for all I know, but for many leaders, giving praise and celebrating success is a motivational minefield. I empathise with this view as I used to be embarrassed when receiving praise and would be openly dismissive of such comments until one of my colleagues bravely pointed out that such behaviour was insulting to the person giving the praise. My intent in rebutting praise was to appear modest, in reality my behaviour appeared uncaring and dismissive. I was throwing back the comments to the very people who were trying to say well done! It was yet another lesson that proved we get measured by our behaviours, not our intent. It took longer than it should to learn this lesson, but since that feedback I have learned to say “thank you” when praise is offered, as this is the only gracious thing you can say at such times, anything else runs the risk of appearing arrogant, or worse, rude.
To help leaders in this area I started introducing the positive focus exercise at the start of leadership team meetings a few years ago as it is a really powerful way to get everyone in the right frame of mind. The positive focus exercise is a simple and elegant way to start any meeting. Give everyone a few moments quiet reflection and ask a positively framed question such as; “what has worked really well recently, what can we be proud of as a team, who has gone over and above and done a great job and even what has the University of Life taught me in the last week or so?” The act of engaging with positive thoughts has the power to change the way we feel and this in turn can change our ‘state’. We need people in a positive state as it is a productive energy source that can heal fractured relationships, dissolve silo issues or simply reinvigorate the exhausted by reassuring them that all is not so bad as it may seem! Give it a go you will be amazed at the results.
The temptation is to leave any good news until the last agenda item so we can finish meetings and briefing sessions on a high! Be wary of this approach, as injecting a piece of good news at the end of a fraught meeting is the equivalent of the “and finally…” gesture we are often fed at the end of a typical bad news bulletin.
If you are interested in how I can help you develop your leadership teams then please click here to find out more, or contact me I would be delighted to help. Finally, and somewhat ironically, thanks for taking the time to read this article until the end. I really do appreciate it as I know how busy you are.