Helping people to turn towards the positive is often not easy. I received a message from a friend who was working with a troubled teenager. The young woman was making decisions that were taking her to her own destruction. My friend and the young woman had a discussion about the value of choosing another path. The teenager agreed that the alternative path would take her where she really needs to go. Then she thought for a time and said, “But it is so hard.”
The statement was not an observation but a declaration. She was indicating that the alternative path was a challenge so difficult she could not see it as a real option. She was rejecting it.
Looking from the outside in, we can all see the folly in the decision of the teenager. On the downward path she is likely to never know her best gifts or rejoice in the unique expression those gifts. Indeed, on her current path, she is likely to accumulate constraints until she may have no life at all.
In teaching positive organizing I often have a similar experience with executives.
We review the plight of conventional organizations and it becomes clear that conventional organizing leads to the accumulation of constraints. We review the science of positive organizing and examine cases of excellent organizations. In them we see people discovering their best gifts and rejoicing in the expression of those gifts. The people are flourishing and exceeding expectations.
The executives in these sessions agree that they should be in the business of creating more positive cultures. Yet when I ask them to lay out a plan they freeze. Like the teenager I can see them thinking, “But it is so hard.” They are right. Turning a culture positive is hard. It requires taking a risk, it requires going against the grain. Executives, like a troubled teenager, indeed like all human beings, need effective support. They need positive leadership.
Positive leaders must provide a meaningful vision. They must also provide the resources necessary to attract people to new experiences. They must model what they ask. They must show genuine empathy. They must provide enticing challenges. As trust and desire increase people become willing to try things they are normally afraid to try. In a classroom I have to do it for the executives as students or they will not go home and try. In an organization executives have to do it or their people will not try.
When have I tried to help someone on the downward path?
What do people need in addition to a meaningful vision?
How could we use this passage to create a more positive organization?