Many organizations focus their time and attention on continuous improvement. This is the never ending identification, reduction, and elimination of sub-optimal processes.
Instead of finding things that need to be improved, what if you look for things to appreciate? In our organizational culture work we find that many employees hear only about problems, issues or emergencies to fix. They rarely hear about the positive outcomes of their efforts or the great things happening every day.
To begin practicing continuous appreciation here are three actions you can take right now:
- Ask a Positive Question – such as “What’s going well?” “Where have you seen the greatest improvements?” or “What should we do more of?” (FYI – “How did you avoid screwing up?” is not a positive question.)
- Affirm the Bright Spots – spend as much time affirming what’s going well as you spend criticizing or talking about what’s wrong. You get more of what you encourage versus heaping discouragement through focusing only on the negative.
- Act on What You Learn – learning about what’s working without doing anything dampens the enthusiasm and support of those who shared their insights. When you hear something to appreciate, share the good news and tell others. Take action on the positive ideas as intensely as you attempt to correct problems.
During the American Thanksgiving holiday, we’d like to suggest a new approach to improvement. Give thanks, appreciate what’s going well by asking positive questions, affirming the bright spots and acting on what you learn. Practice continuous appreciation and you’ll get continuous improvement.