Have you ever noticed how when people get together, they often start a game of Ain’t It Awful? We got together with friends last night and as we explored areas of mutual experience the conversation soon turned to stories about what went wrong and people that were difficult. Every story generated another as we unconsciously worked to top each other. As we talked I began to think about what we were doing to ourselves. It wasn’t long until we all heaved a collective sigh over the fact that society was so messed up that nothing would ever change. Sound like conversations you have had recently?
There were many more stories to be told about great people and wonderful things that had happened. Instead of remembering those, we focused on the 10% not the 90% of our collective experience. How would we have felt if we had told a more positive string of stories? Energized? Full of ideas? Eager?
When we seek to improve the performance of an organization we often start with a game of Ain’t It Awful. We want to study everything that is wrong so we can eliminate it. But research shows that organizations become what they study most. Do you want your organization stuck in the Ain’t it Awful mode, knowing that as soon as the current round of problems are fixed, another round will be right behind?
A senior leader I worked with once told me that if he fired the bottom 5% of poor performers in the company nothing would change. There would just be another group next year. To really ignite the business it was important that he understood and supported the other 95%. They were the reason the organization was profitable. They had the ideas that would move the organization forward. He knew he could extinguish that enthusiasm or nurture it and let it grow. He chose the latter – and the results showed it.
Appreciative business practices continually study what’s right about an organization and position people in the organization to do more if it. People who are engaged and feel they can bring their best to any situation move organizations to new heights. They show that Ain’t it Great gets better results than Ain’t it Awful.