I recently gave a series of workshops to a number of supervisors and managers who all work together within the same organization. This was an interesting study for me, as I’d never before delivered the exact same material four days in a row to different audiences.
The overall topic of the session was leadership, though I had constructed the entire day so it was built on a framework of positive psychology.
The morning started off with an appreciative interview, inviting participants to share moments of excellent leadership. We then moved into a deep dive of their key areas of accountability (as established by the client organization) and discussed what each accountability looks like, what shining examples of each accountability already exist, and who within the organization already excels at delivering each different accountability.The afternoon was a series of tools, many of which were modeled on applied positive interventions that helped to establish leadership competencies, such as building relationships and developing other people. The day was highly interactive, energy was positive, and the food was good.
The day was also rife with learning. Each participant worked through several exercises in a participant workbook and crafted a personalized action plan (based on goal-setting theory) to take away and implement, starting the next day. However, the learning was not just for the participants.Apart from the fact that I need to buy new shoes, here are a few things that I learned as well:
People love positive psychology
After the appreciative interviews, I had several people come up to me and express how much they enjoyed the activity. They had never participated in anything like that before, and it enabled them to share their own good stories, of course, but the greatest boost was from meeting someone else and gaining insight into the hard work that they do in another part of the organization. It not only established a positive relationship, but also created greater organizational insight into how the corporation functions as a positive whole.
People love positive tools
Conducting workplace training sessions, especially when dealing with a topic as abstract as “leadership”, can tend towards the theoretical. Delivering a workshop that was based on concrete actionable items was enormously practical and welcome. Tools included a collection of powerful coaching questions, mind-mapping for solutions (as opposed to root-cause analysis), and the importance of “turning towards,” as described by John Gottman. We also talked about the importance of having a box of tissues in every manager’s office.
People love positive action plansAll too often, people feel inadequate in a leadership role. The burden can feel heavy, and the leader can easily see gaps in his or her own performance – the leader sees the vision and aspirations, and the difference between here and there. Participants were encouraged to build an action plan based on their own strengths. Throughout the day, we talked extensively about what they were already good at, and the action plan was designed to help them build on past success. And then we talked about the design of that action plan, so they can all bring it into the workplace as they are developing others and co-creating employee action plans.
Positive psychology was not just a lesson in the day; it was the entire framework of the day. For me as the trainer, that also made all the difference. Delivering the same material day in and day out was not exhausting or boring at all. The positive energy and excitement from the participants made each day a brand new adventure. Now I’m just looking for shoes that will positively energize my feet to keep up.
Some resources that were in my mind / back pocket as I designed this program:
David Cooperrider’s work on Appreciative Inquiry:
Cooperrider, D. and Whitney, D. (2004) Appreciative Inquiry: A Positive Revolution in Change. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler.
Gallup and VIA work on strengths (notably strengths-based leadership from Gallup)
Rath, T. & Conchie, B. (2009). Strengths-Based Leadership. New York: Gallup Press.
Marcial Losada and Barbara Fredrickson’s 3:1 positivity ratio
Fredrickson B. L. & Losada M. F. (2005). Positive affect and the complex dynamics of human flourishing. American Psychologist, 60, 678-686.
John Gottman’s three ways to respond to bids for connection
Gottman, J. & DeClaire, J. (2001). The relationship cure: A 5 step guide to strengthening your marriage, family, and friendships. New York: Three Rivers Press.
Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer’s “Progress Principle”
Amabile, T. & Kramer, S. (2011). The Progress Principle: Using Small Wins to Ignite Joy, Engagement, and Creativity at Work. Harvard Business Review Press.
Heidi Grant Halvorson’s work on goals that lead to success
Halvorson, H. (2010). Succeed: How We Can Reach Our Goals. New York. Penguin Group.
Laura Whitworth’s “Co-Active Coaching”
Whitworth, L., Kimsey-House, H. & Sandahl, P. (2007). Co-Active Coaching, 2nd Edition: New Skills for Coaching People Toward Success in Work and, Life, 2nd edition. Palo Alto, CA: Davies-Black Publishing.