Creating a Positive Culture: The 4-for-1 Principle

It is fair to say that many workplace environments are designed with a focus toward what’s not going well.

  • Find out the problem and fix it!
  • Conduct a root cause analysis to find out why we’re not performing to our maximum capacity.
  • We can always do better; let’s work on enhancing this.

GiANT Worldwide - Group

While this type of analysis is an important part of leading and managing well, we’re missing something if we don’t look at what is going well for both celebration and learning. Looking at problems, pointing out the challenges, and critiquing existing systems has a dark side. Stop for a moment and think about the potential damage being done to your employee morale if there is an overemphasis on the negative.

I was in a meeting last week where a board chair communicated to me that he heard that work I had done recently was “terrible.” There was no explanation of why my work was terrible, nor did the source (still unknown to me) ever have the courage to come to me personally and tell me that, from their vantage point, my work was terrible. (Caveat: I’m not known for terrible work, nor did anyone in my immediate circle that knows of the work describe it as terrible).

There is a toxin that gets emitted when the critical perspective of leaders seeps into the culture unchecked. If you cut GiANT Worldwide open, you would see that we bleed serving leaders who help create and accelerate healthy leadership culture. We are a leadership transformation company because of this very thing.

How can I create a more positive culture?

  1. Start with Making Positive Deposits: One practice that can help you to create a more positive culture is what I’ll call the 4-for-1 principle. What if for every 1 area of critique you have for individuals or work units, you made a practice of depositing 4 specific, positive statements. I’m not suggesting you do this in one session, so that 4 inauthentic niceties pave the way for the one genuine critique that you have. I am suggesting that you be intentional about identifying areas that are going well in individuals and speaking those out. By the way, this is not just for the benefit of the other person. As you start identifying what’s going really well, the next step is for you to draw out the learning that can be applied to other areas.
  2. Beware of Sloth: The 4-for-1 principle is compelling. I think it resonates in our hearts, but breaks down in practice. We get lazy. Identifying the strengths and successes of others means the focus has to be off of ourselves. It means we must genuinely pay attention to what’s going on in the lives of those we lead. It is work! Being a liberator takes intention and focus, but the results in the lives of your people will be well worth it.

How have you seen a focus on negatives and problems infect your culture?

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