We have long discussed and argued the merits of carrot over stick, but we still find criticism is the norm and a key component that stifles creativity and performance.
I have just returned from Moscow where I was delivering coaching and workshops, during which I was reminded of just how fast we can unleash potential with the tools of encouragement and recognition. One of the teams I worked with was about to be restructured ….. yes, we all know what that means, and it is expected to create an environment filled with fear and negativity. There was indeed some tension in the room as the workshop began, but very soon, with a context of “Giving each participant a strong sense of self” the day and each person literally blossomed.
Using communication as our vehicle we embarked on an exploration of how each of us creates an impact, how we are seen by others and how we can bring more of our best selves into all that we do. Yes, it’s all good!
These treasures are located and expressed in things we are passionate about, values and aspects that are important to us, people we admire and what we are aiming for at any point in time. These topics are always available to us, and when used to give a deeper personal view they act as excellent team-building glue. The human “True North” often follows a gravitational pull towards the negative; towards what we don’t want, what we do wrong and what we are seeking to avoid! So here comes the crux of this…WHAT YOU FOCUS ON GROWS. Yes, repeat that a few times in your mind and consider the balance you have each day between noticing and appreciating what goodness is present in your work, your people and your life, versus the frustrations, problems, and imperfections?
Even when a constructive context is set, and managed, as was the case in our workshop, there comes a point when the rational mind insists on criticising, or suggesting a “better way” of doing or saying something. In that instance creativity vanishes, people rein in their energy and the shutdown begins. It’s palpable. As coaches, trainers and managers, the ability to spot this moment and turn it around fast makes an enormous difference to the outcome and the “magic” that can be created in a meeting, project or workshop, when we build, appreciate and recognise the best bits. With this positive focus, we can grow these parts and very soon the “what doesn’t work” falls away ….. So how can we apply this in the workplace?
By remaining focused on what we want to create, on consciously applying our strong qualities in all we do and how we do it, on recognising and communicating when someone else does something well or has a positive impact on us.
As managers we often receive information from our reports about what could be better, things they are NOT happy with, and in return we can be tempted to give similar feedback. If we were to focus on what worked well and how that approach or style might be applicable to and improve other areas, we would experience I believe a much stronger sense of “I can” from our reports and therefore a stronger likelihood of fruitful transformation. On this basis we consider this positively focused communication to be a key to increasing performance levels and greater employee engagement. I mean where do you like to hang out? …. Where you are appreciated or where you are constantly criticised? Do we learn any less if we ditch the criticism? I don’t think so, but we do learn more about the best of ourselves and are therefore able to walk with our heads held high and our hearts full. In this state we are better able to manage the constant stresses and change faced in our era. Perhaps this is the core of the human ability to be “Resilient” and “Agile”. I’d like to be very clear that we do not ignore the areas that need improvement, but that our approach to turning them around is more effective when resourced by strengths. So whether it’s calling on the people with those skills, or those skills and qualities that exist within the existing person or team, we know that there is a faster, easier and more enjoyable road to success when the approach and strategy is asset-based.
So going back to our team in Moscow, having caught that moment of rational, negative criticism and used the awareness of that change of energy in the room as an example of what happens when we use the “standard critical feedback” we were able to redirect to our treasure hunt, and found so much to be proud of, to strengthen each person for what lay ahead. Each person left the room with an A1 sheet filled with characteristics, values, and qualities they exude. A reminder in any dark moment of what they can use to shine.
It was a gift experienced by us all, trainers, participants, and the manager of the team.
There are many courses available on Developing your Authentic Self and Giving Effective Feedback, at Finders our focus is on growing the natural attributes of the client company and all her employees to increase Performance. By empowering your leaders and managers to embrace this approach, change and growth can happen far more quickly fuelled by increased engagement levels.
Who and what can you appreciate today? Notice how your experience and the environment around you changes for the better when communications and actions are based on this focus.