Screen Shot 2016-02-21 at 9.17.53 AMIn our 2010 book, #AppreciativeLeadership, @DianaWhitneyPhD, Kae Rader and I introduced 5 core strategies to drive winning performance and build a thriving organization.  One of the #AppreciativeLeadership practices we described– strength spotting – is particularly easy and effective. I encourage you to try it … but first, hear my confession.

I really believe in illuminating successes and strengths.  When we focus on what works, we bring out the best in people and situations.  I perform better when people make note of my strengths; and so do many (if not most) of the people I come into contact with.

But do I share what I see, when I notice people’s strengths and capacities?  Do I call attention to the “positive potential” that people regularly demonstrate, even in casual conversations? Absolutely not.  In fact, when I’m in the thick of things, I have an unfortunate tendency to comment only on what’s broken, what didn’t get done, and what’s still on the horizon.

Strength spotting helps me address this unfortunate tendency. It’s a simple but profound process:

  1. Ask someone to tell you about something they’ve done that they feel proud of.
  2. Listen, watch their expressions, and make note of the underlying strengths that they’ve expressed or described.
  3. Tell them what you heard.

I can strength spot while someone’s telling me about their weekend, or an encounter with their kid that particularly pleased them.  I can also strength spot in more formal situations: job interviews, performance development sessions, or coaching conversations.

When my now 22-year-old daughter was in grade school, her teacher was trying to get her to change a behavior.  As they were setting goals for the change, my daughter asked if her teacher would notice the times when she’d done what they’d agreed for a class, and to call attention to them.  She wanted him to notice when she did things right. “I don’t know what it is about compliments,” she said.  “They just make me want to do the same thing over and over and over!”

Nobody is too old to appreciate compliments – or to need their strengths and successes affirmed.  Practice strength spotting if you want to increase people’s satisfaction and enhance their performance.