The Positive Outlier

When it was first published, I read Switch: How to Change Things when Change is Hard by the Heath Brothers. It remains one of my favourite books on the whole subject of Change Management. One particular section has stayed with me. It centred around the story of a nationwide change that helped reduce child mortality through malnutrition in post-war Vietnam. It was the idea of bright spots, the positive deviants, as academics call them. These bright spots are individuals who show anomalous positive behaviour, who model and lead a positive change in others around them. 

This resonated with so much of my research around the high-performers in programme and project management. These bright spots lead the way. The more I learned about these high performers, the more it encouraged me to challenge the status quo about what it means to lead a change well, particularly through project management. For example, they spend significantly more of their discretionary work time in moving towards people around the change than do the majority of project managers. I wrote about this in Practical People Engagement.

It also encouraged me that what makes these extraordinary performers so distinctive - their behaviours, their rituals and the thought processes they used - these were all within the reach of the rest of us. We could learn their approaches. And we could begin to get the same results.

Academics call them 'Positive Deviants', the Heath brothers 'Bright Spots', I call them 'Positive Outliers.'

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Positive Outliers

I am now calling this group the Positive Outliers. These are the people who get extraordinarily positive results. They are positive models in that they show in practice what is truly a superior way to work and lead change. They are also outliers in that their performance is, sadly, still not normal.

This led me on a journey that resulted in two books. First, Practical People Engagement: Leading Change through the Power of Relationships, what the majority mistakenly call stakeholder management, became an instant success. It was adopted by APMG International, a management accreditation body, as their core reference for their stakeholder engagement qualification.

The power of positive outliers led me on a journey that resulted in two books.

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Then, last year I brought out my second solo book, Leading Yourself: Succeeding from the Inside Out. This deals with what business schools call personal mastery, how leaders begin with themselves, and build in certain personal practices that have a huge pay-off in their personal lives and their overall effectiveness as leaders.

Exploring People Engagement

Since then, I launched an online workshop called Exploring People Engagement with a group of clients. As well as including a rich set of templates, this workshop covers a key subset of the APMG International Stakeholder Engagement qualification, helping people come to terms with some of the core concepts of influencing people. Some might go on to then take the full training and exam.

Leading Yourself online

I followed this up with the launch of the Leading Yourself online Workshop. I took a cohort of people through a three-month programme, with online resources and live video meet-ups. The effect was huge ... on all of us ... including on me. As the workshop came to a close, people said they wanted to keep the community going.

The Positive Outlier Academy

So I  am creating the Positive Outlier Academy. I intend that the Academy will be initially:

  • For Community. It will be a place for all of us to sharpen ourselves in community. It will be a place to focus on those high-leverage areas that will make the biggest difference to our work and our customers. There will be discussion boards as well as periodic online video meet-ups
  • For Quick Wins. From responses from my subscribers , what is emerging is an appetite for short, sharp solutions, ‘quick wins,’ that people can grab at short notice. So I am setting about creating some of these.
  • Signature courses. There will also be signature courses on major areas such as People Engagement and Self-Leadership.

If you would like to know more and when the Academy will be open for business. In the meantime, take the Positive Outlier Assessment below.

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