In recent years a dark, negative tenor has sat over our nation and clouded our view. There are several areas where we all see a need for growth, for improvement, for justice and simply an overall change in our culture.
We dream and hope for all that is possible and yet we seem to be hung up on this pessimistic note as we yearn for change. But it is this very negative mindset and attitude that is keeping us from progressing as a nation.
The simple fact is, you can’t lead change from a negative perspective.
This same mode of constant negativity can hinder our leadership and ability to bring an organization to real change. As leaders, we can have the vision, hope, and even good intentions for all things positive, but we often are still lacking what is necessary to bolster our teams and create lasting change.
What exactly are we lacking?
We are lacking something known as Appreciative Inquiry.
This isn’t a new get-rich-quick or turn-your-culture-around-in-24-hours scheme, but rather a way to navigate relationships in work and in all of life. Appreciative Inquiry is a process of creating positive change in your environment. It is a way of living in gratitude, becoming mindful of the questions we ask and putting them forth in a way that produces positive results. In short, the appreciative approach is a habit you need in order to see lasting change.
As leaders we can be idealists in terms of the potential we see for our company.
We can be eager to create change, produce something fresh and see through our great visions. But sometimes when we get into a rhythm as a leader, it can be easy to see all the holes, mistakes, and failures. Appreciative Inquiry suggests that by focusing on strengths rather than weaknesses, immense positive organizational outcomes are produced.
While this way of interacting and approaching relationships can create incredible lasting change, it is not something learned overnight. Here are three ways to begin to practice Appreciative Inquiry as a leader:
- Ask the right questions. Rather than reacting or asking negative questions, put your energy into posing the right questions. The wrong question often assumes and doubts, while the right question works to build up the individual towards mutual success.
- Make it a daily habit. As with any habit in life, Appreciative Inquiry can’t be learned merely by good intent. It must be made a habit. In his book "Trading Psychology 2.0," author Brett Steenbarger writes on how we are much more likely to act through our habits rather than by conscious intent. “A string of ordinary efforts does not result in the extraordinary: ordinary workouts will not result in becoming a weightlifting champion; years of ordinary driving won't culminate in our dominating the race track. When our implicit questions ask about ‘good enough,’ is it any wonder that we fail to achieve ‘better than’?”
- Kill negative habits that get in the way. If we are more likely to act on habits, than no doubt there are some negative habits standing in our way. Stop them before they get in the way of impacting the positive changes you are working to make. If you often say no to meeting with employees, begin saying yes. If you often dominate the conversation, lighten up and let others chime in. Make room for Appreciative Inquiry by ditching the negative habits in your way
The need for constant constructive criticism to lead a team to success is a dated mindset. In a Harvard Business Review report, studies found 5.6 positive praises are needed to counter every one negative critique. Clearly, positivity speaks louder than criticism. So begin speaking it. It is our unwavering hope and confidence in people that will rally them on to success.
Dr. Kent Ingle serves as the President of Southeastern University in Lakeland, Florida, and is the author of "Framework Leadership." A champion of innovative educational design, Ingle is the president of one of the fastest growing private universities in the nation. As president, Ingle founded the American Center for Political Leadership at the university and is also a founding member of the Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration. Before becoming Southeastern’s president in 2011, Ingle held leadership positions in higher education and the nonprofit sector in Los Angeles, Chicago, and Seattle. Ingle is the author of several leadership books and the creator of the Framework Leadership podcast. He currently serves on the board of the Florida Chamber of Commerce Foundation. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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