If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door.”

Milton Berle

Lead Positive: What Highly Effective Leaders See, Say, and Do

Business woman showing thumbs up

Most people want to be positive, to lead in a positive way, and to think positive thoughts. Not many people aspire to be negative.  We laugh when we see the donkey, Eeyore, in Winnie the Pooh, but most of us can name someone with that mindset.  And all of us go through periods where we may exhibit that behavior.  How to consistently create a positive mindset is a skill.

Recently, I spoke with Dr. Kathy Cramer, who has just released a book called Lead Positive.

 

“Leading positive is when a leader is looking at what’s possible, what’s positive, what’s valuable, and what they can leverage in the moment.” -Dr. Kathy Cramer

 

Leading Positive

Your new book is titled Lead Positive. What does “leading positive” mean?

It took us a long time to come up with that title, believe it or not. It’s very simple, very straight forward, and people tell me that they get it right away. It’s about leading and it’s about moving forward in a positive way towards a positive result.

Highly effective leaders spend 5x more attention on the possible positive than on problems.


Lead Positive also has a subtitle that is very important to the meaning of the book and the purpose of the book: What Highly Effective Leaders See, Say and Do.  In my study and experience with coaching leaders, I have found that the see-say-do framework is a self-reinforcing loop.  Oftentimes, leaders are not really aware of exactly what they’re paying attention to. But whatever it is dictates in a very direct way what will come out of their mouths—what they’re going to say—and then ultimately what they do.  So it’s a virtuous cycle.

9781118658086.pdfLeading positive is when a leader is looking at what’s possible, what’s positive, what’s valuable, and what they can leverage in the moment.  When leaders are looking at the upside of a situation—welcomed or unwelcomed—then they create a virtuous cycle.  They start talking about it, they say out loud what they’re seeing, and then other people join them in taking action, doing what is necessary to really take advantage of the upside.

In your research on leadership, what distinguishes a highly effective leader?

One of the things that stands out about highly effective leaders is that they actually spend five times more attention and effort leveraging what is possible and what is positive in the moment than they do focusing on problems. That is a big reversal from what most of us by nature and nurture do almost automatically.

What neuroscience refers to as our negativity bias literally equips us to be more sensitive and more reactive to something that spells danger, harm, problem or something’s not right. And so if we let that negativity bias have its way, most of us are literally the opposite; we’re focusing on the upside five times less than the downside.

What we’re doing here with highly effective leaders is we’re training them how to be aware: “What am I paying attention to?” And if it’s a huge problem or a huge barrier, something that’s significant, of course, you need to pay attention to it, but pay attention to it as an asset-based thinker would—by focusing five times more effort on the assets inherent in the situation, even if the situation is problematic.

On the other hand, deficit-based thinkers are people who have not tackled or tried to tame their negativity bias. It’s quite easy to do. It’s a simple process, but we find it difficult because it means cultivating a new habit.

Soul is all about meaning what you say and saying something meaningful.” –Kathy Cramer

You break down communication into substance, sizzle, and soul. It really resonated with me. “Saying it” with substance, sizzle and soul makes communication positive and memorable. Would you share an example of this?

I’m thinking of Franklin Delano Roosevelt here.  In his famous inaugural speech, one of his first lines was, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”  Let’s just take that one memorable line. There is tremendous substance here, which really refers to the psychological fact that when you are afraid, when you’re in deficit-based thinking land, there’s some anxiety. And in this case, America was going through the Great Depression, so the anxiety was profound. When we feel hopeless we have a very narrow focus. Our minds operate like lasers zeroing in on what the problem is and how to escape. But there is no creative bandwidth at all in that.

“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” –F.D.R.

Speak With Substance

So when a leader is speaking with substance, he is giving people the kind of information that FDR was presenting, the cautionary tale: If we act out of fear, we surely will fail, we surely will be sub-optimized, we surely will be impulsive.

Speak With Sizzle

The sizzle that’s associated with this phrase has to do with the emotion, the profound warning that you can hear in FDR’s voice. We can go to YouTube, we can Google this particular speech, and we can hear it thanks to technology now and even view him as he spoke those words. The tone of his voice and the message itself had sizzle because they were speaking directly about emotion.

Speak With Soul

The other day I wrote about what Ice Buckets Teach Us About the Spread of Ideas.

Almost immediately after it was posted, the personal challenges started to roll in.  I realized that I was next.  I’m the President & CEO of OCLC, a global library cooperative providing research, programs and services that help libraries share the world’s knowledge.  As we supported the ALS mission, we had a little fun with one of our product offerings (WorldShare).

I am so proud of the OCLC associates, who joined this organization to make a difference.  They are some of the most philanthropic people I have ever met.  It is because of their amazing spirit that we are consistently named among the Best Places to Work in IT, year after year.

Creating A Buzz: 7 Ways to Stand Out

bigstock-Honey-in-glass-jars-with-flowe-44092480

It’s a honey festival.  What would you expect?  Honey!  And honey is a commodity, right?  It’s all the same.  If you want honey for a recipe, or to add to some hot tea, you pick up some honey at the store.

My view of honey completely changed when I attended the Lithopolis Honey Festival last year. I left not only with new information about honey, but also with observations on how to make nearly any business stand out.

Arriving at the festival, I see the streets have been closed to allow for tents to fill the streets.  People are everywhere, crowding the vendors.  With so many people milling about, how do the honey manufacturers attract customers?

As my family walks down the street, we stop to visit each table.  I begin to notice how wrong I am about honey.  There are innumerable ways that each company is different.

STAND OUT

Here are a few ways that I began to see the differentiation:

Don’t sell a product.  Entertain the audience.  Crowds gather around to see “Bee Beard.”  That’s where a man of perhaps questionable sanity has somehow managed to create a beard made of hundreds of bees, extending down his body and circling his head.  From the number of people crowding around, it’s clear that this team is successful.  It’s hard not to stop and take a look.

Use personality to develop loyalty.  Some honey producers were present in the aisles with a friendly smile. They were not accosting or overly aggressive.  These savvy customer service honey sellers met us in an engaging way, answering questions.  Somehow in the first minute, we know the history of the business and the family.  You don’t need an academic study to know that you are more likely to buy from someone you know.

Create unexpected flavor.  Did you know that honey could come in cinnamon or raspberry?  Resisting the chance to try various flavors is futile, so we stop and taste a few.  Now we are comparing notes, sharing tastes.  Engaging with a product in this way increases the sale opportunity. 

What Ice Buckets Teach Us About The Spread of Ideas

Refreshing

 

Actors, sports figures, musicians, and even a former United States President have been doused in ice-cold water in recent days.  If you haven’t witnessed this, you may be enjoying a summer on a remote island with no connection to any media.  For those of us who have watched this phenomenon take off, we may ask what lessons we can all learn from it all.

Why did this take off?  What is it about this campaign that made people act?

 

Purposeful

The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge is for a meaningful purpose: to raise money to find a cure for a devastating and fatal disease called amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or Lou Gehrig’s disease.  The financial results are stunning.  If the challenge were not tied directly to a bigger purpose, it would have failed.  Not many people would participate without an important cause.  It’s hard to turn down a challenge with a purpose.

“An idea spreads faster when purpose is married to challenge.” -Skip Prichard

 

Powerful

Technology has changed everything.  It’s easy to record a video, upload it to a social media account, and see what happens.  The video brings multiple senses and emotions into play.  We can see our friends’ reaction to the water; we can almost feel the cold of the ice; we hear the laughter in the background.  It’s a powerful multi-sensory appeal.  When you add the emotional appeal of the cause, the call to action becomes almost irresistible.

“An idea spreads faster when more senses are involved in the call to action.” -Skip Prichard

 

Personal

The challenge has a uniquely personal appeal.  One person challenges others to join in.  Instead of merely forwarding an email or sharing something on social media, it demands participation.  That’s where it becomes uniquely personal.  If this challenge were a cookie-cutter replication, it would not spread.  It’s the personal spin that draws us in.  Bill Gates didn’t just have water thrown on him; he sat down and designed a better way to execute.  The personality of each participant shines through.

“An idea spreads faster when personalized.” -Skip Prichard

 

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