Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Leadership question: Do you frame positively?


Challenge:  
Many of us struggle to find the best way to interpret much of what happens in the workplace - a sales pitch, a brief exchange with our boss in the corridor, that two thousand word email from a colleague cc'ing everyone with a corporate email address. As we develop ourselves as leaders and become increasingly responsible for setting the culture and motivating others, how to stay positive and energized when so much of that ambiguity might mean that things are going wrong?

Context:
In the moment, what is happening has to compete with all the back-story and baggage in our minds that triggers us to past events and that color what we are perceiving. This is necessary to save time – enabling us to associate this phrase with that body of meaning, a kind of shorthand of words, feelings and experiences so that we are not having to synthesize and process each new event from first principles.  However, when untended this type of framing can become like a negativity vortex, condemning us to keep re-experiencing and even sub-consciously seeking out the same kinds of events, people and situations that keep us stuck or limited. 

For example – the sales person who has been rejected so many times that they no longer believe in themselves or in the value of their product or service. They walk into a room wanting success but anticipating rejection, coloring each potential customer’s questions or look or shake of the head with the meaning of rejection, and eventually makes it inevitable that they are rejected, again. 

Action/Prescription:
Consciously choose optimism and positive framing when in doubt. Most everything that happens to us is essentially neutral. The difference is made by how we make and manage meaning as we experience what happens, and as we play it back and talk about what happened. The language becomes the experience. You may never know the ‘absolute truth’ of an event, but you can choose a perception and interpretation that is empowering and that energizes you to do your best work.   

If something is undeniably tricky, one surefire way to get your positive framing lenses going is to accept the situation and then ask yourself – what is the one thing I can do right now to improve things? It need not be dramatic – just the simple act of finding one small thing that you can do immediately helps you feel empowered to begin the process of positive change, and the larger solution will flow from there.

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