Creating a Positive Mindset and Culture - A Strengths-Based Approach
I’ve learned over the past thirty years that my most effective executive coaching leadership clients know the “why” of what they are passionate in achieving. They get excited in my office telling me inspiring stories of their hopes and struggles. They have a growth versus fixed mindset, and are optimistic and forward thinking.

One of my executive coaching clients confided in me this week that he was struggling to convince several of their senior executives on changing their company culture. The data from a recent company engagement survey indicated that far too many employees were not engaged wit the mission and vision of the company. It was as if the big egos in the room were locked in a battle of who was right and blaming the others for perceived failures.

I asked him “What happens or behaviors do you observe now and what would you like to see in the future?” He responded, “I tolerate behaviors that don’t contribute to growth”. I suggested that he first work on becoming aware of his own habits and patterns of behavior. He then would model the new desired behavior.

At our next meeting, he reported that he interrupted the pattern of a battle of egos and got everyone’s attention. The members of the executive team thought that if he was so passionate about his belief in creating a new culture that they began to pay attention to their own habits and patterns of behavior that were counterproductive to creating a high performance culture.

Emotionally intelligent leaders know that creating a positive workplace culture and climate where emotions are appropriately expressed increases engagement and moves things forward. In order for people to be fully engaged, they need to feel they are following leaders who inspire them emotionally.

A Strengths-Based Approach

There's a reason why managers’ focus on strengths and weaknesses is so important. Most organizations are obsessed with fixing weaknesses. They consequently conduct performance reviews, 360-degree assessments and they like to evaluate how well employees and managers are measuring up to predefined goals and competencies.

Managers are instructed to look at an employee’s assessed gap and coach for greater performance in areas of weakness. The goal is to raise awareness of deficiencies and encourage progress toward a set standard, building strength where it is lacking. An executive coach, an offsite training program and in-house learning programs may be assigned.

Such assessments, however, usually pay only cursory attention to an employee's strengths. The assessment, performance review and subsequent remedial programs focus instead almost exclusively on gaps or weaknesses.

Focus on What Works

Too many managers assume that employees need to be good at many things, rather than excellent in key areas — a decidedly negative view of human capital.

More recent studies in behavioral sciences and organizational performance have firmly established that focusing on what works, followed by a program to scale it to greater levels, is a more practical and efficient approach to developing people and performance.

Managers who take a strengths-based approach help employees identify strengths and align talents with their work.
These managers don't ignore employee weaknesses, but fixing them isn't their primary focus.

Instead, positive managers focus more on the areas in which an employee excels and how his or her strengths can be leveraged to benefit the employee, team and organization.

Greenberg and Arakawa measured the degree to which managers used strength-based behaviors by asking employees to rate their level of agreement with a series of statements, such as:
  • "My project manager matches my talents to the tasks that need to be accomplished."
  • "My project manager encourages high performance by building on my strengths."
They found that managers who focused on strengths enjoyed superior team performance, as opposed to managers who focused on weaknesses.

Their study surveyed more than 100 information technology professionals in different managerial roles at The Hanover Insurance Group.
Managers were asked about how well projects met budget, schedule and quality standards. Using the employee responses, Greenberg and Arakawa ranked the extent to which managers focused on strengths and found that those in the top quartile had much higher project performance results.

Based on retrospective project performance results from 2005, managers in the top quartile achieved an average project performance score of 10.6 on a 20-point scale, while managers in the bottom quartile achieved an average score of 7.09. In 2006, the average score for top-quartile managers was 17.91, compared to an average score of 11.55 for managers in the bottom quartile.

Good managers won't be surprised to find a correlation between their behavior and employee performance. But even Hanover's leaders were surprised at how much the two factors correlated.

You can develop a more positive mindset by working with an executive coach. The investment is well worth the reward: your ability to influence the future, your career and your personal-development capabilities.

Are you working in a company where executive coaches provide leadership development to help leaders put a strengths-based positive leadership model into action? Does your organization provide executive coaching for leaders who need to be more positive? Positive leaders tap into their emotional intelligence and social intelligence skills to create a more fulfilling future.

One of the most powerful questions you can ask yourself is “Am I a positive leader who helps individuals and organizations achieve their highest potential, flourish at work, experience elevating energy and achieve levels of effectiveness difficult to attain otherwise?” Emotionally intelligent and socially intelligent organizations provide executive coaching to help leaders develop more positive teams.

Working with a seasoned executive coach and leadership consultant trained in emotional intelligence and incorporating assessments such as the Bar-On EQ-I, CPI 260 and Denison Culture Survey can help leaders nurture positivity in the workplace. You can become a more positive leader who models emotional intelligence and social intelligence, and who inspires people to become fully engaged with the vision, mission and strategy of your company or law firm.