In spite of our best efforts, sometimes things go sideways at work.
A project is over budget
A good idea turns into a bad idea
The stakeholders don’t buy in.
Time requirements are underestimated.
For whatever reason we just aren’t getting the results we want.
We have all been there – what seemed like a great plan is now just a dead fish floating in the bowl.
The usual response is to call a team meeting to hash out what went wrong.
Not the meeting.
Just the focus of the conversation.
A lot of energy can be devoted to trying to figure out why things didn’t work. Or what needs to be done in order to fix the problem.
Research shows us that when you focus on the problem, you actually get more problems. That’s because organizations move and grow in the direction they focus their attention. In some circles that’s called the Law of Attraction. Whatever you focus on, increases.
In the workplace it’s more likely called Appreciative Inquiry. It’s based on a philosophy that within the team or organization, there is already a skill set, approach or model that works.
Instead of focusing on what isn’t working, you focus on what has worked in the past or is currently working. It shifts the conversation from
What’s wrong? THE PROBLEM
What similar thing have we done successfully in the past? THE SOLUTION
Imagination is more important than knowledge.
That has a perfect application when things aren’t going well at work. Instead of knowing why it’s not working, focus on how you can creatively apply whatever does work to the current situation.
Focusing on what works helps to highlight the team’s strengths. Past successes are a result of good utilization of the skills and abilities of individuals and the team as a whole. Instead of putting energy into remediating weaknesses or vulnerabilities, this approach capitalizes on what is already available.
Imagine the debrief meeting if the focus of the conversation was:
What is working well?
How can we expand or build on that?
What have we done in the past that could work well in this situation?
What did we do as a team that led to our past successes?
What will it take for us to be successful?
How can we look at this situation with fresh eyes or a “beginner’s mind”?
Meetings that focus on problems, failures, weaknesses and disappointments encourage more of the same. They inherently create an atmosphere of negativity and blame.
On the other hand, when we focus on past successes, proven solutions, best practices, strengths and creativity, we create an atmosphere of possibility and positivity.
When you find yourself being pulled into the “what’s not working” conversation, take the lead and shift the focus to “what works”.
Don’t be surprised when it works.