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Senior Correspondent

7 Ways to Stop Vultures and Protect Vitality

Bad leaders only feel good when they’re talking about bad.

Problem-centric leaders circle death and neglect vitality.

Focus: Organizations stink when vulture-leaders take over. The problem in shipping makes you forget that production is up five percent and complaints are down ten. The more you focus on problems, the more problems you see.

Ignore problems? Of course not. But there’s more to leadership than circling problems.

At yesterday’s leadership meeting, I asked, “What’s working?”

What’s working:

  1. Where are we winning?
  2. Who is rising up?
  3. Where’s the energy?

4 reasons to talk about what’s working:

  1. Positive environments energize teams.
  2. Strengths and passions become visible. “Did you see how Marjorie poured herself into last week's project?”
  3. New leaders appear. Discussions about problems identify weak players, not strong.
  4. The number one reason you care about what’s working is so you can do more of it.

When I asked, “What’s working,” we remembered the people who are taking initiative. They’re pulling us forward. Leaders aren’t pushing. How can we become an organization of initiative takers?

7 ways to protect vitality:

  1. Give permission. Initiative is taking action without asking permission. Don’t wait for people to ask. Go give it.
  2. Create safe environments by establishing multiple communication opportunities.
  3. Anticipate problems associated with people taking initiative. In our case, how do we prevent collisions of sincerity between people who are taking initiative?
  4. Discuss resources openly.
  5. Minimize policies and procedures. Maximize freedom with accountability.
  6. Focus on purpose and values. People who take initiative need to align with, not fight, the organizational mission.
  7. Honor those who take initiative. Talk about them publicly.

Bonus: Talk about what’s working. Rise above vulture-leadership. Pour energy into what’s working.

How can leaders maximize what’s working?

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