Challenging the stereotypes associated with positive environments is not easy until you see them projected against the noisy background of real-world choices. The positive power play is achieved when a leader understands that the process is not about one’s cheerleading ability; it’s about energy management.
We face choices all day long about where we direct our energy. When we make tiny shifts in our focus during crucial moments, the positive impact upon our teams, families, and community is enormous. I’ve got some marvelous insights and techniques to help.
First, some context. Remember that famous scene in Jurassic Park where the adventurers realize for the first time that a T-Rex only responds to movement? If you don’t move, that nasty T-Rex won’t see you and eat you like a Fig Newton.
What Kind of T-Rex Are You?
Each of us has our own T-Rex powers and limitations. My special vision reacts to ideas. Ideation is my #1 StrengthsFinder® talent and when an Idea pops upon my horizon, I can see it 10 miles away and I race after it with all my emotional and physical energy. Ditto for anything new and interesting that I can connect to my work with sports and corporate teams. Double ditto for anything that gives me a clue about what makes a person tick.
I use this information to help my clients unite as one team to overcome huge obstacles and achieve significant goals.
For you, it might be the opportunity to find common ground between disparate parties. Or an opportunity to make a significant impact. Or a weird piece of data appears and alarm bells go off in your head. Others have a unique ability to inject positive emotions at just the right time. In StrengthsFinder® terms, that’s called Positivity. If you have that strength in your top profile, you’re already gifted in the subject matter at hand.
If you don’t have 20/10 “glass half full” vision, are you a loser in this game? No. You are a loser in this game only if you refuse to experiment with new choices to help increase your effectiveness.
Guess where Positivity lies for me in my StrengthsFinder profile? It is #17 out of my 34 patterns of excellence. Middle of the road. There are 16 other talents I’m more likely to leverage before being positive comes to mind. I do not consider myself a positive person. Others disagree.
Last Friday at the conclusion of a meeting about a difficult business problem, my client said, “Maureen, you’re so positive!” She was laughing as she said it, and I laughed with her. I do intentionally inject energy into what is right about people AND help them overcome obstacles to success. That feels positive to them, and that is why leaders, teams, and individuals embrace my program.
Action: Reframe and realign your natural gifts so that they contribute to the success of others. That injects momentum and movement that wouldn’t exist otherwise. If you haven’t taken the StrengthsFinder ($19.99 from Gallup) contact me at Maureen@MaureenMonte.com and I’ll send you instructions.
Positive Business Conference
I attended the Positive Business Conference on May 11 & 12 at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business in Ann Arbor. Over 400 people from around the world convened to learn how connecting our work to a greater purpose creates a positive impact in the world. And boy, did I see some great presentations. I want to share a couple thoughts and techniques here.
Dr. Robert Quinn spoke about the ownership factor that appears when leaders help followers connect their role to a higher purpose. Ownership implies responsibility – responsibility for quality, productivity, client success. An example I often share in my workshops is the true story of a hospital orderly who, when questioned about remaining in the lowly job of mopping floors, replied with, “I am not mopping floors. I’m preventing diseases from spreading.” Imagine how you’d feel if your loved one was about to have brain surgery and you heard that remark in the hospital hallway? And imagine of the energy and focus the orderly has at work. That’s positive.
Action: Think about your work and then consider how it connects to something bigger than you. Don’t be a bricklayer: be a builder of cathedrals. What are you constructing in your world?
Dr. Quinn encouraged leaders to align people with the future, filling them with energy to make the impossible, possible. In my book, Destination Unstoppable, I helped the Cranbrook Boys Varsity Hockey Team overcome team chemistry issues to win the Michigan State Championship. Do you remember the very first thing we did? We built a team success statement – a purpose they could all buy into because they created it. It described their main goal AND the behaviors needed to have great team chemistry. Then we worked to connect their strengths and roles, on and off the ice, to the greater success of the team. The positive outcome was totally independent of anyone’s personality. Oh, and you may also remember that not a single member of that team had Positivity in their top 5 strengths.
Action: Define success with your team. Let them lead the way so that they own it. See Appendix A in Destination Unstoppable for a detailed step – by – step process.
The Importance of Purpose
Bruce Pfau, responsible for cultural transformation at KPMG spoke about an amazing series of events that moved KPMG from #80 in Fortune Magazine’s Great Places to Work rankings to #12. KPMG’s employees work in areas like accounting and compliance (insert big yawn). When Mr. Pfau began the journey of connecting an employee’s role to a greater purpose, he started with 90 second video on how KPMG had played a major role in significant historical events that shaped the company’s purpose. It is excellent – click here to watch it.
Then, they created an app where employees could take a selfie and create a purpose statement of their own. The app created a poster-like product that could be shared with others. Employees who deal with numbers all day suddenly realized they were protecting the country from terrorism, protecting democracy, and helping farmers succeed. Thousands and thousands of stories were told. It was fascinating and moving. And of course, the business metrics have been positively impacted on all levels.
- Reflect upon the ways that you and your team can connect and share personal stories about making a difference to clients, community and teammates. Connect it to the team’s success statement to amplify its effectiveness.
- Build your own purpose statement. Here is mine: My Purpose is to help individuals and teams accomplish what they were put on this earth to achieve. (Destination Unstoppable, page 266).
At the Positive Business Conference, Dr. Kim Cameron spoke about mapping energy and information sharing within an organization. Why? Leaders who generated positive energy were 4X more likely to lead successful teams than those who simply lead with authority.
Ask yourself these questions about your team:
- Who shares information?
- Who gives energy?
You can list these people, and you can ask your team to list them as well. Build a bubble chart with the results and help those who aren’t contributing by providing coaching on how to improve, and insight into how others perceive them. Most people want to be effective and may not understand how their choices and behaviors suck the life out of the room. Here are some additional tips:
- Being present (please don’t look at your cell phone while we have a meaningful conversation)
- Asking open ended questions
- Catching people doing things that improve team energy
- Telling people what to do
- Grabbing the spotlight
- Withholding information, praise and smiles
- Poor body language that conveys boredom or disapproval
I want to underscore the importance of body language. Click here to watch this short and impactful video from Coach Auriemma. He clearly says what he means and means what he says. Recorded over a year ago, it recently went viral.
One last story and then we’ll wrap this up.
Approachability & Winning
Recently I attended the American Hockey Coaches Association meeting in Naples, Florida. There were magnificent speakers and I will blog more about them in the future. One of the most interesting was Coach Mike McShane from Norwich University. It is not possible to describe the experience of hearing Coach McShane speak. Part raconteur, part alchemist, part warrior, part leader – he has a way with words and is intensely funny.
Coach McShane has achieved many accomplishments including being ranked among the top 10 winning NCAA hockey coaches. This year he crossed the 700 wins threshold. He was asked if he continued to adjust his coaching style. At some point, winning becomes formulaic, right? Wrong.
A voracious reader, Coach McShane spoke about being “brainwashed” by a book that encouraged coaches to spend more time in the locker room. He chose to give it a try. This made him more available to players and also honored them by spending time on their turf. It’s akin to a general coming to sit with the troops and breathe the same air with them. Patton was great at that.
The inevitable outcome is a stronger sense of connection to the leader. That connection drives loyalty, and a desire to do well for the leader. Coach McShane invested more face time with the players and encouraged fun. Everyone felt more at ease. When we feel at ease, we are more likely to perform well.
Side Note: In order for this to work, busy leaders, managers and teams must regularly pause and redirect some of their “execution” focused energy towards the human system. I see far too many leaders and managers who are unwilling to, or incapable of, making that tweak. Those that do try it reap the benefits. Now, back to the story.
Coach McShane’s energy management choices may not have improved a player’s slap shot, but it certainly did impact team chemistry. How did they perform? Norwich was this year’s national Division III Hockey Champs. Coach McShane was named the NCAA Div III Hockey Coach of the Year.
And this is what he had to say about it.
“I am having more fun than ever, said McShane. “I have a great situation here at Norwich with great support from the school, terrific assistant coaches like Steve Mattson, Alec [Thieda], Bryce [Currier] and Cap [Raeder]. I enjoy some terrific friendships with people in the area that have been built over my time here and I just love coaching the kids that come wanting to play for Norwich.” *
Do you feel the energy in that statement? He doesn’t rave about drills or skills. Friendship. Love. Coaching. Support. If that isn’t positive energy, I don’t know what is. Wouldn’t you want to work or play for a leader like Coach McShane? Sign me up.
Bottom line: Connecting energy to purpose is not just a “nice thing to do” – it’s a positive power play that offers a competitive advantage. It might even be your championship strategy.
Are you willing to tweak your energy management so that you’re a more effective leader or higher performer? What does your positive power play look like? What ONE THING can you do TODAY to make that happen?
Maureen (Ideation | Strategic | Learner | Achiever | Individualization | Maximizer)