One of the key themes of positive psychology, when applied to leadership is the concept of creating a culture of abundance - a topic I really enjoy discussing with organisations.
Let me explain why.
I have managers tell me the things that they regularly find themselves doing. This list is easily divided into fixing problems (managing deficits) and 'virtuous acts' (creating abundance).
When asked to describe how the deficit list actions make them feel, they immediately respond with: tired, drained, hopeless, angry, demotivated.
But, when asked to describe the impact of the abundance list, I literally see them lift; their body language changes and the responses are: energised, proud, motivated, humble, valuable and engaged.
What a stark difference!
Reality starts to emerge when they consider the proportion of their time that is spent on the deficit items. The most common answer I hear is … 80%! Often it is higher. These responses are accompanied by looks of despondency; as if they are stuck on a treadmill with no hope of this situation ever changing – after all, this is management.
The following question though, often triggers a change in perspective: “If you solve all of the deficit issues, will you have achieved any of the abundance items?” After a short period of reflection the response is “No”. The reason for this is that the abundance items are not simply the opposite of the deficit items; they are distinctly different.
In 2013 I attended a Positive Leadership program at the University of Michigan. A quote I heard there, by Dewitt Jones stood out for me:
"By celebrating what's right with the world, we find the energy to fix what's wrong."
Whilst this was impactful for me, sitting miles away in an Executive Residential, the challenge was how to help managers overcome the deficit management culture they seem trapped in.
Here are just two of the strategies that I have seen change the balance:
What else have you seen organisations do to break free from the vortex of deficit management? I welcome your comments.