Leaning to People

Positives Attract

A while ago, I met a senior executive client for the first time. In the course of our conversation. I mentioned that I liked to call out the gold in people. She asked me what I meant by that.

So I showed her. I said, 

“I can already see that you are a strategic delegator with a confident sense of the value of your own team. With multiple initiatives, in your portfolio, you are able to make the biggest difference by building your team’s performance. This shows a high-order leadership.”

She was impressed that I saw this so quickly at our first meeting. What I had said was positive, discerning and true. I felt she began to trust me enough to bring her most positive self to the rest of the meeting where I explored together with her ways through the challenge she faced.

As I go on in practice, I’m discovering something quite surprising, something that others wiser than me have known for some time: that in human relationships, positives attract. When we look for the positives in others, there is an influencing dynamic that is very powerful. The other party feels affirmed and appreciated and is drawn towards us.

In human relationships, positives attract.

When the consultant approaches a client with positive regard for them, looking for the good or worthy in the client, the client tends to respond and opens themselves to courage. 

The more common frame of reference, one I have subscribed to for years, is that I am paid to be a problem-solver, a critic. Well, clients do want me to help them solve problems, but I can’t do this as successfully if I treat my client as a problem to be solved, less so if I make them feel like they are the problem.

I use a strategy of finding the gold in people, their strengths, their better practice, the excellence that is already there.

More and more I am exploring a strategy of finding the gold in people, their strengths, their better practice. It is making me more empathetic and thereby I appear to be more influential as a consequence. Surely this is a more honourable attitude? We look to honour those whom we serve. 

Something profound seems to happen when you treat people as unpunishable.

Positive psychology has been making huge contributions in business. Martin Seligman has led the charge. Others have developed powerful consulting strategies such as Appreciative Inquiry. Something seems to happen when you treat others as unpunishable, discovering and declaring what might be uniquely positive about them. This is now happening in organisational cultures, and I’ve experienced it first hand. In one such organisation, I received people’s positive discernment of me initially as embarrassing flattery, but after a while, my false humility dropped. I began to believe them. It’s an incredibly powerful organisation, due in no small part for its adherence to this mindset.

I recommend Danny Silk’s work, both Culture of Honor (he’s American, so we’ll forgive him misspelling “honour”) and Keep Your Love On. Irony warning: Silk comes from a Christian pastoral perspective so his faith may offend those of a nervous spiritual disposition … Seriously, read Danny’s work with an open mind. He is a man who writes from the trenches, someone who has worked this out for real in some quite difficult situations and cares deeply about those he seeks to serve.


Why do we perform better in positive relationships, when so much of human behaviour seems to be about avoiding risk, blame or loss? 

Let me know in the comments below.

Leaning to Action

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You’re Not Crazy!

Sometimes it seems as if the whole world around you has gone mad. And then you begin to doubt that yourself. “Am I still sane?” you ask yourself. Sometimes that is what a dysfunctional culture can do to you. It makes you doubt what you thought you knew for certain.

I was talking with a client is who leading a major transformational change and she was beginning to see signs of it all unravelling. Even the people who were supposed to be taking the lead on certain aspects of the change were flipping between platitudes – “everything is fine” – and defensiveness. She needed to talk to someone sane, so she called me. In this example, our culture can be dangerous: it can blindside people to very real problems. If enough people agree, they can be denial until there is a disaster is inevitable. Culture can do that.

Sometimes culture can seduce us into acting like lemmings.

Here are some common symptoms to watch out for:

  • Silo-working on a programme that would have a far-reaching impact.
  • Project teams focused solely on tasks and technology.
  • Over-optimism about the results to justify their earlier case, the so-called optimism bias.
  • Under-resourced and over-extended managers who have just been given another 42 strategic goals.
  • Key early adopters in the change who still don’t know what’s going on only a few weeks from “go live.”

Another way of describing culture is a conspiracy of conceit. Culture can seduce us into acting like lemmings; we are about to rush over a cliff to our deaths and we all think we’re doing fine. We take false comfort in each other. An antidote is to listen to someone from outside, who is not in that culture. And that’s hard to do when your first reaction is to say, ”But you don’t know how we work here.”

I told my client, “You’re not crazy!”

I told my client, “You’re not crazy!” She needed to hear that, in the teeth of such huge cultural inertia. She is doing well but needs encouragement, support, and guidance, in that order.

Question: How do you support your colleagues when they are not going with the cultural flow? I’d like to hear how you do it.


Welcome to my new home!

Since I first started blogging on TypePad in the early 2000’s I have moved twice:

Recently I stood down as an Executive of the company taking up an associate Chairman role, and handing over the reins to my valued colleague and friend, Richard Rose. So it seemed right to begin posting on my own site.

In fact, blogging is becoming more important to me once again. I am doing more writing. In fact, I have my second book, where I am the sole author, well on the way. It will be about an emerging new way of working in the 21st Century that we can all choose to adopt. If you would like to be kept informed of when and how the book will be published, please leave your details below and I will give you early access to some samples.

Blogging was supposed to “go away” with the advent of new social media platforms and other media like podcasts. Instead, we are seeing a resurgence of blogging.

So, for now, welcome to my new home.

Question: Why do you think there is a resurgence in blogging? What would you like to read about in these blogs?