Things successful leaders avoid saying (Part 2)

Last week, I raised up the value of the principles in “Drive” by Dan Pink.  If, as research has shown, people are motivated by autonomy, then there is a class of words we ought to avoid, as they can crush autonomy.  These may include “ought,” or “must,” but let’s focus on the one that seems to pass judgement:

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How DiSC changed my life…

A major shift in my teaching effectiveness occurred after I absorbed and applied “The Leadership Challenge” by Kouzes and Posner. I especially embraced their concepts of “inspiring a shared vision” and “encouraging the heart” as ways to increase my own effectiveness at rallying students to stay attentive and hard-working. Being enthusiastic and affirming as a way of doing things, which is the opposite of what I had done before, was like changing the world from black and white to being in color. This shift marked a measurable difference in my engagement of students.

And yet, every once in a while, I would be frustrated

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Positive leadership isn’t the same thing as “soft” leadership

Sometime, when people are urged to take a positive approach to leadership, there is some push-back. Some people seem to equate “positivity” with being super-nice, but being kind is much deeper than a spewing of empty compliments like “good job” or “nice work” or “super!”

You can’t be too kind. But, you can be too soft. That is the difference, and I’ll admit that I have had trouble sometimes helping folks understand the difference. I just read Good to Great and have taken quite a liking to Jim Collins’s phrase “rigorous, not ruthless.” This is the message for leaders who would like to be positive. In fact, participants in Group Dynamic workshops are often trained in the art of “behavior –> outcome” statements. (Covered in an earlier post). This focus on behavior, and the high standards of the organization, can be done in a way that is positive, not negative. In a way that is rigorous, not ruthless.

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Leaders increase effectiveness by changing things up

I’ve been reading about the Adaptation Principle. This can take on many forms depending on the venue (it’s very popular in exercise physiology), but in organizations it goes something like this:

When we get used to things, we don’t notice them as much. We also don’t think about their meaning.

Examples:

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