I was working with a group of business owners recently in Fargo, North Dakota. As an aside, I had never been to North Dakota before. I learned that the Visitors Bureau gives out t-shirts for those folks who visit North Dakota as their “50th state.” I asked if they had a “46th state” shirt. In case you were wondering, they don’t. Oh well.
The purpose of this blog, I’m sorry to say, is not to discuss my travel exploits. Instead, it is to talk about how universal the leadership discussion has become across America. In places like North Dakota, which is growing tremendously and in need of attracting and retaining talent, it is particularly important to practice 21st-century leadership.
The group in North Dakota talked a great deal about providing real-time feedback and realized the importance of doing so in the 21st century. Each of these leaders also admitted how this leadership tactic was never modeled for them and that they really didn’t know how to provide it on a regular basis. Everyone in the room came up through a “no news is good news” culture.
Several of the business owners asked how they could challenge themselves and their business culture to improve in this area. (Side note — I was impressed with their recognition of the importance of culture and how it begins with them.) This group of leaders was quite willing to look in the mirror in order to accept their leadership responsibility.
One tactic we talked with them about, and have used with many clients around the world, is “dissecting a victory.” In other words, pick a significant win and review the processes used in order to secure the victory. What role did everyone play? What did we do differently? What set us apart? How did luck enter into it? Did our competitors misstep in anyway? How did we force our competitors into the misstep?
Asking these kinds of questions internally, post-victory, will open the teams’ minds to repeating the process; just like providing real-time, positive feedback to an employee opens their mind, motivating them to also repeat that same positive behavior.
In working with businesses around the globe, we have come to realize how often teams will “autopsy a loss.” Many managers will ask, “Why did we lose this? What did we do wrong?” These are great questions and ones we should find answers to when necessary. However, and maybe more importantly, we need to define what have we done right when we win business.
We urge leaders to take an “appreciative inquiry” approach. Do not simply look for all of the developmental areas and all of the losses. Build from the positives. Study after study shows that both individuals and organizations respond better, and perform at a higher level, when they build from a positive.
As a leader in your organization, take some time to seek out the positive. Better yet, gather the team and dissect a victory. Look at everything that everyone did right when you were victorious.
No news is not always good news. Build from your victories and you will find yourself developing a real-time feedback culture.