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Marshall Goldsmith: Powering Up Positivity

Optimistic, happiness or positive thinking inspire other people happy, emotional intelligence or balance between happiness and sadness, man holding smile face pendulum ball to hit other sad faces.
Looking for a quick way to give your team a productivity boost? Start by eliminating negativity.

One of the greatest challenges faced by all the leaders we meet is overcommitment. Many of us feel buried with a flood of requests that never stop. We never seem to have enough time.

We are now going to give you, as a CEO, a tool to save time and simultaneously build a more positive organizational culture. This is an idea that you can share with leaders at all levels of management. Although the theory is easy to understand, as our surveys clearly show, the practice is usually far from optimal.

We have asked more than 1,000 leaders from around the world to answer this question:  

What percent of all interpersonal time is spent on people talking about how smart, special or wonderful they are or listening to someone else do that, or people talking about how stupid, inept or bad someone else is or listening to someone else do that?

For some reason, we’re always surprised at the consistency of the average answer from respondents. The average score reported by participants from around the world is about 65 percent. We have never visited a country where the score was below 50 percent.

Productive Engagement 

How much do we learn when we talk about how great we are or listen to others do that? Nothing.

How much do we learn when we talk about how terrible someone is or listen to others do that? Nothing.

What percent of all interpersonal communication is wasted on this unproductive communication? The answer, even if our results are vaguely representative, is way too much.

We have a very simple suggestion. Reduce this number!

Teach your leaders a basic process. Before speaking, ask yourself four questions:

• Will this comment help our company?

• Will this comment help our customers?

• Will this comment help the people that I am talking about?

• Will this comment help the people that I am talking to?

While we both have Ph.D.s, you don’t really need a Ph.D. to know what to do. If all four answers are no, don’t say it!

One of our great heroes is Alan Mulally, the former CEO of Ford and a Chief Executive CEO of the Year. When Alan went to Ford, he immediately embarked on building a more collaborative and positive culture. One of his great beliefs is, “Have fun—not at other people’s expense.”

A common belief is that changing a large corporate culture is an incredibly time-consuming process. Since the company was going bankrupt, Alan didn’t have an incredible amount of time.

He very quickly established a zero tolerance policy for destructive or inappropriate behavior. Part of this policy included the elimination of destructive comments.

It worked!

Model the Makeover

As a leader, start with yourself. Before speaking, ask yourself the four questions listed above. Lead by example. After starting with yourself, start carefully listening to and observing the behavior of people on your executive team. If you want your company to have a positive culture, assume that all of your employees are watching the executive team. Make sure that your team is leading by example. After that, start spreading the word, leader by leader, throughout the organization.

Peter Drucker taught us, “We spend a lot of time teaching leaders what to do. We do not spend enough time teaching leaders what to stop.”

We, with great help from Peter Drucker and Alan Mulally, have just given you a great place to get started in teaching leaders what to stop.


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    Strategic Planning Workshop

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    Over 70% of Executives Surveyed Agree: Many Strategic Planning Efforts Lack Systematic Approach Tips for Enhancing Your Strategic Planning Process

    Executives expressed frustration with their current strategic planning process. Issues include:

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    Steve Rutan and Denise Harrison have put together an afternoon workshop that will provide the tools you need to address these concerns.  They have worked with hundreds of executives to develop a systematic approach that will enable your team to make better decisions during strategic planning.  Steve and Denise will walk you through exercises for prioritizing your lists and steps that will reset and reinvigorate your process.  This will be a hands-on workshop that will enable you to think about your business as you use the tools that are being presented.  If you are ready for a Strategic Planning tune-up, select this workshop in your registration form.  The additional fee of $695 will be added to your total.

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    Female leaders face the same issues all leaders do, but they often face additional challenges too. In this peer session, we will facilitate a discussion of best practices and how to overcome common barriers to help women leaders be more effective within and outside their organizations. 

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    General’s Retreat, built in 1986 with architect Gary Roger Baird, has been voted the “Best Golf Course in Nashville” and is a “must play” when visiting the Nashville, Tennessee area. With the beautiful setting along the Cumberland River, golfers of all capabilities will thoroughly enjoy the golf, scenery and hospitality.

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