In part 1 of this post we spoke about new research which is telling us that we should lead with warmth before strength and spend most of our time building on strengths rather than focusing on weaknesses.

Let’s look at more of the rationale behind this new way of thinking.

Spend More Time with Your Strongest Performers

This advice will be controversial, because for many years leaders have been exhorted to coach their weakest links.  However, Kim Cameron from the University of Michigan has found that “Managers who spend more time with their strongest performers (rather than the weakest performers) achieved double their productivity”  (Cameron 2012).

That is not to say that you can simply ignore the underperformers and weaknesses, they do need to perform above a certain threshold. But it means shifting your emphasis, time, energy and effort to your stronger performers and strengths.  (I can hear the collective gasps! I did say this would be controversial).

A large-scale study by the corporate Leadership Council (CLC) found that an emphasis on performance strengths lead to a 36% improvement in performance, while emphasising performance weaknesses, led to a 27% decline.

Positive Leadership Inspires

You don’t have to look far to see how positive leadership inspires.  Consider the antipathy felt by Australians to negative election campaigns. Yes they can work in the short-term, but ultimately they don’t really inspire us to action.  They don’t turn disinterested, disengaged staff into engaged and willing followers.  It takes inspiring leaders to inspire – and you can’t inspire with negativity.

On the flipside consider people like Ghandi, JFK, Nelson Mandela even Jamie Oliver. They all believed in their people and had a positive vision.  They all moved and inspired millions.

What You Can Do – 3 Tips

We can all benefit from overcoming our negativity bias, and practising more of an abundance (positive) approach.  Here are some steps you can take right away:

1         Give praise and thanks at every opportunity.  Don’t praise things that are not praiseworthy.  Do take every opportunity that you can to notice strengths and good performance.  Notice it out loud.

2         Lead with warmth.  Build a link with your followers and then demonstrate strength.

3         Begin to shift the balance of the time you spend with your weakest performers towards spending more time with your strongest performers.  Don’t shift everything overnight, and don’t abandon your weakest performers altogether, simply change the emphasis.

You will find you start becoming more engaged, more proactive, and you may even find yourself enjoying your role a lot more.  To paraphrase Kim Cameron:

Take a chance to err on the side of abundance thinking rather than deficit thinking and you will have more chance of achieving greatness, rather than just meeting a standard.

Cris delivers a wide range of leadership, innovation and change programs with a special focus on the latest thinking from Positive Organisational Scholarship and Positive Organisational Development.  Some of his specialty programs include Inspiring Leadership, Work Smarter, Innovation, Taking Charge of Change, and Building Resilience.

Cameron, K. (2012). Positive Leadership and Extraordinary Organisational Performance. Deans Lecture Series, Melbourne Graduate School of Education. Melbourne.

Cuddy, A. J., M. Kohut, et al. (2013). “Connect, Then Lead.” Harvard business review 91(7/8): 55 – 61.