A leader’s role is to nourish their people, to provide an environment where they can celebrate their innate gifts and use those gifts to build powerful relationships and outcomes in their personal and work lives. Whether you are a solo entrepreneur, lead a mid-size company or direct a multinational business, one of your key tasks is to inspire yourself and your team members to deliver and exceed business expectations.
Some leaders choose to drive for results by focusing on what is wrong — the problems — aiming to fix what is not working. Others orient on what happens when things go beautifully and look to appreciate, repeat and build on those shining moments. I am convinced from 37 years of research and practice that focusing on the positive will take you much, much further to attain your dreams and business success.
Positive, strength-based leadership does not avoid or deny problems that need to be addressed. It simply uses the 80/20 rule (80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes) to put problems in a new perspective, seeing them as matters to be cleaned up in the process of moving toward important new vistas of possibility.
Achieving excellence comes from putting most of our energy into repeating and building on our best performance. By focusing on consistently doing whatever it was that made our past successes possible, we create a new standard expectation of high accomplishment upon which new triumphs can be built.
In this regime, leaders and employees describe themselves as more confident, motivated to attain and surpass business goals, continually energized by discovering and leveraging their core strengths for unprecedented results.
Olympic athletes focus intensely on their best performance and how to achieve even higher results, never focusing on what they have done badly. As a business leader, you get to do the same, choosing to focus on strengths and what you want to create (rather than problems).
Five Steps to Strength-Based Focus
There are five steps in this purposefully positive approach to igniting your individual and team performance:
- Compelling Business Issue: Identify “What we want to achieve.”
- Discovery: Appreciate “What is” (What gives life?).
- Dream: Imagine “What might be.”
- Design: Determine “What should be.”
- Delivery: Create “What will be.
Consider this metaphor: Organizations are treasure chests full of jewels to appreciate and celebrate.
Identify the compelling business issue that you and/or your team want to focus on, something that you could really commit to. Here are some examples:
- Delivering results (i.e., customer service that creates loyalty)
- Collaboration for stellar team performance
- Creativity that transforms your work
Explore some aspect of yourself, your team or your business that can powerfully boost your trajectory toward success.
Discovery involves engaging yourself and team members at all levels of the organization in responding to a set of questions that allow you to see and deeply appreciate what is happening when things are at their best — going well or extremely well. These prompts can run along the lines of…
- Tell me about a time when a customer was overjoyed with excellent treatment from our team.
- Talk about a time when you/we innovated, when we created a new product or service that made a real difference in our bottom line.
- Look back on a time when you were struck by inspiration, when a brilliant insight allowed you to do something vitally new and important.
In each case, you are focusing on highpoint experiences — when you, your team or your business is at its best — then drilling down to discover the keys to your success. By engaging in this uplifting process, you are identifying your positive core qualities and behaviors.
Next, it’s time to dream or envision what is the most positive possible future that you individually and collectively can imagine for your business. For example:
- One year from today, I am/we are consistently doing all the things that have created customer joy and loyalty, every day. Our customers are totally committed to our products, services and us.
Take your vision further by asking yourself:
- What is happening to our business to make it so successful?
- What are leaders in our business and industry saying about our success and how we are doing it all so right?
The more complete and fully detailed the vision, the more it draws you, naturally, to bring it into being.
Given your individual or collective vision, what are the two, three or four key design or operating principles that are essential to ensuring that you are living the best behaviors of your dream vision every day? For instance:
- We are always curious and open to new or alternative ways to collaborate for higher product quality and personal satisfaction.
- We always ask our customers how we could serve them even better.
- I am always open to feedback from my team on my leadership style and how I can improve.
Having identified these operating design principles, set aside a time every week to review and share stories of how you are using them and your positive core characteristics to bring your dream into reality.
Here is where so much energy multiplies. You (or you and your team) take off running with your new insights, dreams and operating principles. You identify what needs to be done right now to get moving on delivery, giving broad freedom to make it happen.
The desire and self-motivation to achieve your dreams explodes into meaningful, results-oriented action as people step up and start making changes immediately. When you choose to use a strength-based approach to ignite leadership and grow your business, you allow individuals at every level of your organization to contribute full out.
This appreciative process can be utterly transformative. And the opportunities to reveal new treasures through strength-based discovery present themselves every day. Using this process, I’ve seen solo entrepreneurs achieve extraordinary breakthroughs grounded in a newfound confidence and “can do” attitude.
In a global tech business, major commercial sales that used to take one year or more to complete were closed in four months as salespeople got the individual and collective support to make things happen smoothly and quickly from initial contact to final contract. Whole organizational cultures have been revitalized and transformed into joyfully new and better versions that are a pleasure to work in.
Once you’ve discovered the treasures of your best experiences, dreamed about what will happen when you do those brilliant things every single day and identified the design/operating principles that can keep that flame of positive energy and forward movement alive, what will you be called to do in the next few days, weeks and months to get into transformative action?
Remember, what you appreciate appreciates in value. Have fun celebrating the strengths of your leadership and business, and enjoy the extraordinary results you achieve!
Anita Sanchez, Ph.D., Aztec and Mexican-American, is a transformational leadership consultant, speaker, coach and author of the new international bestselling book, “The Four Sacred Gifts: Indigenous Wisdom for Modern Times” (Simon & Schuster). She bridges indigenous teachings with the latest science to inspire and equip women and men to enjoy meaningful, empowered lives and careers. For more information, visit www.SanchezTennis.com.
Special offer to Lady Boss Blogger readers: Receive a one-on-one, 3-hour “Discovering Your Positive Core™” strength-based appreciative inquiry with one of the principals at Sanchez, Tennis & Associates. Valued at $2400, this session is yours for only $595 US dollars if scheduled before February 28, 2018. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more.