Is Our Organization a Positive Leadership Organization?

Layoffs, downsizing, automation of job tasks, organizational transformation initiatives, and technology transformations are all initiated with the intent of producing improved performance.  Organizations are constantly seeking positive leaders who can lead the entity through this performance enhancement process.

By Oculus Consulting Group LLC

Does The World Need More Management & Leadership Content? 

Everyday someone leaves a work environment with a personal resolution that an improvement of his or her leadership performance would probably be beneficial in his or her career progression.  Everyday someone somewhere in the world believes that their personal managerial experiences could make for the next best selling book, could be great content for the an MBA leadership course, or might possibly be monetized to a viral audience as entertaining social media.

In today’s highly integrated and technologically interactive business environment, there is no shortage of content intended to inspire today’s managers and leaders to improve their leadership performance.  A quick search of Amazon returns more than 300,000+ titles of varying relevance on the topic of “management”.  Change the search term to just “leadership” and Amazon can find 70,000+ titles on that topic alone.  Worse yet, a simple Google search of the term “management and leadership” returns more than 1.5 BILLION websites that Google can find with varying degrees of relevance to that topic.  Change the search term on Google to “Executive Coaching” and Google could find 161 million+ sites with some level of relevance on that topic.  Social media compounds these statistics with a plethora of pages and profiles of individuals who profess in their own way to be “leaders”.  These individuals provide a constant barrage of short entertaining videos, thoughts, hints, and motivational advice content.  It is safe to say that there is a plethora of materials available for managers and leaders to choose from if they want to find hints and suggestions for individual performance improvement.  Our favorites are the individuals who profess that for a subscription fee, or a purchase of their most recent book, only then will they be able to provide you with the secrets of their success. 

“The chance that your personal encounter will match the criteria for their personal prescription is limited at best.”

Stop and think about these statistics for just a second.  Millions or even billions of sites of available content are offered up daily to make individual managers and leaders more effective.  With tens of thousands of titles available for the offering, what could they possibly offer the reader that has not been offered elsewhere?  Is their experience really that unique?  Why in the world would anyone want to submit more material to this already expansive ocean of content?

The reality is that in a vast majority of that leadership content, in those management publications, websites, and these social media experts are simply attempting to offer up a prescription for your future behavior that is based upon their historical experience in a sea of situational opportunities.  The chance that your personal encounter will match the criteria for their personal prescription is at best limited.  Analogies to finding the needle in the haystack or being struck by lightning may be appropriate here for comparative purposes.  These prescriptions by celebrated social media stars or authors often recount their own individual experiences, usually compile a sampling of colleagues’ opinions or experiences, or simply provide a motivational fireside chat of inspirational experiences.  They are mostly based upon some level of personal experience.  The chance that your individual managerial encounters will fit neatly into their historical personal experiences is risky, if at all.  A majority of information seekers continue to search for the quick hit fix that will resolve their management frustration or weakness.  In short, they want to be better managers and leaders.  And, they continue to search for the magic potion that will provide immediate relief.  They want to be a more positive leader.  Frequently the drivers for their searches in leadership skills and managerial behavior content are being driven by dramatic disruptive innovations within their own organization.

Positive Performance versus Positive Leadership

In the crazy fast-paced world of business, an emphasis is placed on the immediacy of organizational performance turnaround.  Harvard Business School professor John J. Gabarro conducted a research project to examine what happens when general managers take on big new jobs. His project consisted of a three-year longitudinal study followed by a set of ten historical case studies of management successions. Specifically, Gabarro was trying to sort out why some managers failed but others succeeded.  His research produced some very interesting side notes of information.  The study’s findings put to rest the myth of an all-purpose general manager who can be dropped into any situation and triumph. On the contrary, research observations indicated that managers’ experiences have a profound and inescapable influence on how they take charge, what areas they focus on, and how successful they are likely to be in mastering the new situation.  His findings regarding general managers versus specifically-trained managers has led to an expectation of finding the right skilled resource for the right situation.  And, his research may help to explain why there is a vast proliferation of managerial and leadership content available to an ever expanding audience of information seeking managers. These managers are looking to acquire and demonstrate that skill specialty.  While the study found that new managers needed an average of 36 months to complete the transformation process, financial markets and investor stakeholder groups often seek evidence of a turnaround in positive performance improvement indicators in as short as the first fiscal quarter following the change. 

Although the successful turnaround managers were under much greater pressure than their nonturnaround management counterparts, they also benefited from certain advantages.  Generally speaking, their companies gave them much more latitude in taking action than the managers had in the normal successions.   In other words, an ability by managers to demonstrate positive performance results preceding the management change was essential to these turnaround managers being given the authority and latitude to lead the organization through the change.

Anyone who has experienced the transformation change of downsizing, or dramatic implementation of new technology, can probably vouch that these experiences are usually less than positive experiences.  Organizations often demand positive performance improvement while these situations and experiences are unfolding.  Those demands are anything but positive for the participants involved.  Layoffs, downsizing, automation of job tasks, organizational transformation initiatives, and technology transformations are all initiated with the intent of producing improved performance.  Organizations are constantly seeking positive leaders who can lead the entity through this performance enhancement process. Researchers at the University of Michigan refer to this activity as positive leadership, or the activities in which leaders enable something called positively deviant performance to produce improved organizational performance.  And entities that can identify the characteristics of these leaders and this behavior within their own organization are more apt to install these managers in positions of importance in these various transformation activities.  At Oculus Consulting Group LLC, our demonstrated expertise in assessing positive leadership characteristics and then installing positively deviant behaviors on critical projects has been well documented.

The importance of positive leadership experiences also has several implications for organizational succession planning and leadership career development.  All other factors being equal, an insider with industry-specific or other relevant experience is more likely to take charge with fewer difficulties than an outsider without industry-specific experience.  Three of the four managers in Gabarro’s research who failed were industry outsiders in well-run U.S. and European companies.  The importance of experience, which Gabarro’s study highlighted, also challenges the concept of the positive professional manager.  Although turnaround specialists can succeed in a variety of negative situations, they are the exception, not the rule.  Turnaround leaders exhibiting positive leadership characteristics achieving positively deviant performance are themselves a kind of specialist, and in high demand by organizations.

Am I A Positive Leader?

Positive leadership is the application of positive principles resulting from emerging fields of positive organizational scholarship, positive psychology, and positive change.  It emphasizes what elevates individuals and organizations, what is demonstrated as right or good within the organizations, what is experienced as good within the organization, what is inspiring within the organization, and what is inspiring to the organization.  The outcomes of positive leadership are generally seen as thriving at work, stronger interpersonal relationships between team members, more ethical and virtuous behaviors within the organization’s leadership and management team, and networks of energized team members focused on positive performance results.  While organizations demand positive performance results, they are often weary of these same positive leadership activities and characteristics. 

Critics of the concept of positive leadership often apply a negative label to the concept of what constitutes positive leadership, and instead focus on the characteristics of what constitutes a good manager.  Like many of the management prescriptions found in the plethora of information available across the internet and publishing spectrums, organizations often believe that enhancing teamwork, encouraging employee participation, fostering trust among working groups or teams, changing organizational culture, and becoming more customer-centric are simply naturally expected outcomes of their organization’s leadership.  The same critics frequently misunderstand the concept of “positive” and attempt to manage their organization’s managers through negative attributes.

They often see the attributes of positive leadership as naïve, just sugary-sweet endeavors that are based upon touchy-feely activities that are not well founded in organizational reality.  These same leaders argue that business is not a bed of roses or a panacea, and that leaders can only be developed if they are tested through significant negative challenges and obstacles.  They see the relevance of leadership as overcoming highly negative situations through elimination of the negative, rather than enhancing the positive.  They often also see leaders who demonstrate positive deviant performance and positive leadership often as weaker managers.  They frequently dismiss any traditionally perceived positive leadership attributes as simply a self-help attribute or just an emphasis on encouraging people to be happy at work.

It is exactly these situations of conflict between using historical negatives to teach management and today’s positive leadership attributes that require an understanding of why positive leadership and positively deviant behavior is important.  Producing dramatic performance improvements while maintaining organizational ethics has become a challenge for some institutions.  The key is not to avoid or eliminate the negative experiences, as much of the content based upon historical experiences alludes, but instead to transform your organization’s leadership experiences into positive leadership experiences.  At Oculus Consulting Group LLC, our positive leadership workshops and assessments can help your organizational leadership determine the biases, obstacles, and challenges that limit positively deviant performance within your organization.

Do We Have Positive Leaders In Our Organization?

You may already recognize some of these positive deviant performance outcomes within your own organization.  Why is it that some of your project teams flourish while others flounder?  Why are there some managers or leaders within your organization that seem to be the most popular amongst your project teams?  They never seem to have any issues securing team members and motivating positive performance.  Just as plants will lean toward the sunlight, your organization’s resources tend to lean toward these managers and leaders exhibiting a greater desire to join their teams and contribute to their success.  These leaders already understand that focusing on the positive gives life to individuals, teams, and your organizations in the same way that the organisms in nature benefit from sunlight. These leaders are important enablers who can producing life-giving positive performance or outcomes and in turn, demonstrate the capability of extraordinarily positive performance.

Rather than profess another series of articles and thought leadership that joins the ocean of material already available, at Oculus Consulting Group LLC we aim to help your organization understand how to use this positive deviant performance to dramatically affective your organizational performance in a way that is both positive and repeatable.  Our workshop assessments can assist your organization in diagnosing and outlining strategies that document positive performance improvement, develop the characteristics within your leadership teams, and then devise and implement those strategies for truly measurable positive organizational performance.   

Concluding Thoughts

Top management within your organization has to make some difficult trade-offs in terms of what is good for the person, the business unit, and the overall organization.  If one of your organization’s objectives is to develop a well-trained pool of managerial talent, then your top leadership should put executives in assignments that stretch them by broadening their experience through the use of positive leadership characteristics.  In an environment where retaining skilled staff is critical, understanding how to develop positively deviant performance through positive leadership is essential to your organization’s survival.   This will inevitably mean putting people with less than optimal experience in charge of units whose performance may suffer, at least in the short term. The question is whether the benefits to the person and to the larger organization are worth the costs. 

At Oculus Consulting Group LLC, we understand how these key principles of positive leadership can mean the difference between successful responses to innovative technologies, dynamic technology application changes, responding to disruptive innovation, and the need for substantial organization transformation.  Our demonstrated achievements in assisting our clients transform their vision for positive management effectiveness into a measurable reality of enhanced organization performance can assist your organization as you proceed with similar efforts.

To learn how you can secure our services and assistance, please contact us.

© 2018 Oculus Consulting Group LLC

Oculus Consulting Group LLC and “Transform Your Organization’s Vision into a Measurable Reality are registered service marks of Oculus Consulting Group LLC.

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