When Things Look Grim, Keep Your Team Positive

Jan 28, 2011
6 Min Read

Although there have been positive signs of recovery in our economy, there’s still lots of opportunities to find bad news. Pick up any newspaper, tune in to any 24 hour news channel, or visit any news website and you’ll see the proof of that staring you in the face. That’s the way a lot of people start their day. It’s no wonder our team members come to work and focus on complaining about what’s wrong.

It would be easy to become consumed with the bad news and let it determine your path forward. But, as the team leader, it’s your responsibility to keep your team members moving in the right direction and provide a good dose of motivation to help them achieve team goals.

A good way to do that is to get the team together to talk about what good news has happened -- either driven by your team or your organization. Considering this approach to building your team can help move them to higher performance, but you’ll have to make sure it doesn’t get turned into a complaint session which can easily happen with one simple, “Yes, but.”

You’ll need a structured process to help guide your team. You’ll want to make it clear that the session is to identify what’s going right so the team can build on it. Set some ground rules to guide the behavior of the meeting for a greater chance of success.

So what process should you use for this session? I recommend using an Appreciative Inquiry (AI) process. Using AI you will place your focus on improving your team by leveraging their strengths rather than their weaknesses. It’s a process that helps you focus on what’s working well so you can build on that success. Getting people talking about what’s going well is very inspiring and can help the team move forward quickly.

The AI process is pretty simple. In your meeting, you will:

  • Define what’s going right.
  • Determine which “right things” your team can beef up.
  • Create an action plan to move forward.

Quite a different approach, huh? With AI, you look at “What’s working well around here?” So how do you guide your team building discussion? I like the way Sue Annis Hammond defines assumptions  in her book the Thin Book of Appreciative Inquiry which will help guide your discussion. They are:

  • In every society, organization, or group, something works.
  • What we focus on becomes our reality.
  • Reality is created in the moment, and there are multiple realities.
  • The act of asking questions of an organization or group influences the group in some way.
  • People have more confidence and comfort to journey to the future (the unknown) when they carry forward parts of the past (the known).
  • If we carry parts of the past forward, they should be what is best about the past.
  • It is important to value differences.
  • The language we use creates our reality.

Set up your meeting at the outset by using these assumptions as your guide. Brainstorm what’s going right -- I bet you and your team will be surprised by how many things they can come up with once they get rolling. Look at your list of items, consolidate and decide which you can leverage for even greater success. Define an action plan of steps to take and get to work! Don’t forget to set a check in date so you can keep track of how things are going.

Have you ever used the appreciative inquiry process with your team? What did you think about it? Please share in the comments.

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