Searching for What’s Good

February 10th, 2017 by Kelly Kienzle

These children see only what is good – – to eat!

I recently had the pleasure and honor of working with a large organization to understand what was unique and good about their culture.

This organization existed within a somewhat staid industry.  They struggled to attract new talent.  They expected long hours of their employees but paid them only marginally higher than the market average.

Yet this organization enjoyed a retention rate and loyalty among their employees far greater than the industry standard. And the employee’s happiness extended to their clients – – their customer satisfaction rates would make any CEO envious.

And so their question was: How do we make the most of what we do well while keeping in mind where we struggle?

Engaging in Appreciative Inquiry

We engaged in an Appreciative Inquiry process to find what was that positive core that existed at the center of this organization. What were their strengths that made their weaknesses irrelevant, to paraphrase Peter Drucker?

We discovered that they excelled at 6 of 8 key areas: strategy, execution, culture, talent, leadership and structure. They performed poorly in 2 areas, innovation and partnerships, but these were made irrelevant by the strength of the other areas. The strengths outweighed the weaknesses, thus making the weaknesses irrelevant.

I will add a note of caution here: In any category, an organization still must meet a minimum level of performance to succeed – – but they do not have to excel.

What’s the so-what?

The so-what is that organizations all too often try to improve by focusing on their weaknesses. They analyze what they are doing wrong and try desperately to improve it. Focusing on weaknesses is inherently a morale-killer.  People can become defensive, frustrated and deflated when asked to focus on what is wrong.

But what if we focused instead on what was good? What if we took an organization with high loyalty and worked towards making employees even more loyal? What would happen then? How much positivity would be generated? How would people react if the leadership asked them what was needed for an even higher level of employee retention?

The ideas would flow and the commitment of the group would sky-rocket. With this organization, it certainly did.

Though our attention inherently gravitates towards what is broken and weak, our energy flows more towards what is healthy and strong. Ask your team how to do more of what they do well. And they will be even better.

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