Tag Archives: positive

The difference between a good news show and positive communication

What’s the difference between a good news show and positive communication? Is there one? How can you use it?

Change projects are often blamed to be a good news show only. The change agents and management only spread a positive message of the change. Problems are called opportunities or challenges. Nobody dares to say that he has difficulties with the needed change, the interpretation or the implementation of it. While in some cases it might be the truth, but in most cases there will be problems and some challenges will be too much.

So let’s call the problem by its name and address it.


Does this mean you cannot spread a positive message?

No, but there needs to be a subtle balance between spreading facts (problems) and keeping people motivated. When the only word heard is that of “we’re not going to make it unless we… ” you will not be able to keep your people motivated.

What’s the difference with positive communication?

When spreading the message you can formulate it in such a way that it appeals to the people in your organisation. Instead of a “burning platform”, you can speak of a “burning dream“. Confirm the problems that are there, but emphasize that the problems are part of the past (or at least their origin). Help your colleagues look further into the future and help them dream.

It is easy to look in the past for all that has gone wrong: we have archives and news papers for that. We even might seek for connections that are not there (cfr. The Black Swan). But it gets far more interesting when you try to build an image of the future of your organisation. Imagine how it looks, imagine how people work together, imagine the role of your management.

Don’t stop with your dreams. Put your dreams into practice by translating them in actionable behaviors and actions itself.

Additional reading

The new pope is up for a big cultural change

Pay it forward with appreciative inquiry

The power of positive formulation

Wij lezen voor u: Wat hebben ze nu weer bedacht?! (Dutch)

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Change culture by changing behavior – part 3: Story telling

Change is a process. Change is a journey. Change is exploration, thinking, mistaking, learning, testing, accepting, supporting and struggling. Change is emotion having an argument with reason. You cannot change culture if you want your employees to change their behavior. It’s the other way around: you need to change behavior to change the culture of your organization.

Big change projects have the tendency to change processes, organization, structures and training to change culture. But that’s only an illusion. New studies, like “Accelerate” by John Kotter and “Viral Change” by The Chalfont Project have arguments against this tendency which are very compelling and make sense.

There are several ways to change behavior, but I would like to discuss three topics with you in separate short blog entries: role modelling, distributed networks and story telling.

Part 3 – Story telling

Story telling has been there for ages

Story telling has been there for ages

Story telling is not new to us. For thousands of years story telling was the one way experiences and lessons learned were spread. This because the majority of human population was illiterate until the last two to three hundred years, Our brains seem to learn and remember better when the information is processed in the form of stories. Many management guru’s have rediscovered this and used it to write fictional stories like “Who moved my cheese“, “Our iceberg is melting“, the Patrick Lencioni series and real life experiences like “Leading from the edge – Leadership Lessons from the Extraordinary Saga of Shackleton’s Antarctic Expedition“.

But story telling goes beyond writing and distributing books (I read of a case where the “Who Moved my cheese” book was spread to an entire organization to support the change effort). Story telling is about sharing experiences, both positive and negative experiences.

The theory of appreciative inquiry teaches us that by focusing on positive points and experiences, you can achieve better results, then when focusing on what’s going wrong. The case of OSHA mill proved a decrease in work related accidents when the power of positive story telling was unleashed. (A decrease is good situation when you’re talking about the number of accidents, of course.)

A distributed community sharing stories about positive experiences with their change efforts will have an exhilarating effect on the organization. Remember: if your need to set the organization on fire, communities are your oxygen.

But don’t write of sharing negative experiences completely. Sharing negative experiences… can be positive too. As you show you’re not invulnerable, but also human, and that you learned something from the experience.

Sharing both types of stories are signs of a mature community growing in your organization.

Additional reading

Changing the way we think about change by Leandro Herrero

Accelerate by John Kotter


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Pay it forward with appreciative inquiry

Yesterday the second theme evening of the new company strategy discussed Empowerment.
Speakers were Dr. Ronald Fry and Wim Croonen of Gemzyne Geel.

Empowerment is kind of a buzz word used for some years, so it deserved some extra attention to the “how” and “why” of it.

The main topic was appreciative inquiry, which is, in short, focusing and leveraging the good items to great, instead of only focusing on the norm and the gap between your performance. We humans tend to focus more on the negative, the gap to, then the positive and this has negative effects on the company, the culture, the employees and the results. When applying principles of appreciative inquiry Dr. Fry proved positive effects in organizations, measurable in earnings before taxes and retention rates.

Dr. Ronald Fry applied his own theory in practice by sharing success stories of organizations like the US Navy, British Airways and the OSHA mill.
The story about the OSHA mill that Ronald Fry told, was eye opening for me.
It all came back on a very simple principle: to talk about it [security in this case] in a positive way.

They applied the principle used in the movie Pay It Forward, where a child tries to improve the world with one simple rule:

If somebody does a good deed you, you have to do it for three other people.
In no time the world starts improving.

Pay It Forward

Pay It Forward

At OSHA they did the same: they raised three questions in a positive way about security:

  • What is your positive experience with security?
  • What is your dream image of security?
  • If no constraints, what are the three things you would change about security?

(not sure about the exact phrasing)

These questions spread all over the company and even before the main ideas were captured and procedures were worked out, the positive effect was already showing in the number of accidents per month.

This principle is easy to translate to spreading a new strategy.

Start with describing your positive experience with the new strategy and expected behavior, and the person that receives it, pays it forward to three other colleagues.
The positive message will spread like fire!

So, why wait?

My positive experience with empowerment is that as Lean Coaches we are engaged to get the job done. Our
performance is evaluated by results and measured by the targets we’ve set for ourselves and some with our team.

We have autonomy for finding out the how and when to do it. To evaluate our work, we ask our customers (our coachees) and team colleagues for feedback.

This is one of the things that keeps me coming back to my work every morning 🙂

Please share: What is your positive experience with empowerment?

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A continuous flow of feedback

Giving and receiving feedback seems so logic, but it’s not common practice. Most people know that giving negative (but constructive) feedback is hard, but few people know that also giving positive feedback (compliments) is not that easy.

Giving positive feedback

Questions that arise are: When will you give the feedback? Should you bundle it? How will the receiver take it? Will they trust us? Will they think we have a hidden agenda? Are my compliments considered sincere? Is a compliment needed for that success in day-to-day business?

Scientific research and literature all around learns us that by emphasizing on positive messages, we can have a better effect then when only giving negative feedback. But negative feedback is sometimes so easy. Yes, easy. We are taught to perform and seeing bad things is easier than seeing the good ones. Compare it with coming home after a busy day at work: if your partner has cleaned up all the recyclable garbage on the kitchen sink, you will probably not notice it (or maybe even take it for granted). But when your partner didn’t take out the garbage, the first thing you see is the garbage on the kitchen sink.


  • Start with giving small, even trivial, compliments, but always make sure they are sincere: that you mean what you say.
  • Give feedback on a regular basis: don’t pile up you feedback for the big feedback talk. In “the big feedback talk” the pitfall is making generalizations like “i think you are a good analyst”. These generalizations may be received as awkward. Regular feedback after accomplishments can be directly linked to the effort made and is perceived better.
  • When in a crisis, only give positive feedback for a while. If performance is improving you can start working at the learning opportunities.
  • Address your feelings if you uncomfortable giving feedback. Eg. “I’m not sure how to say this, but i think you did a great job when …”.

Giving negative feedback

Negative but constructive feedback should always be welcome. Make sure you use the feedback framework described below.

Questions that may arise are: Am i allowed to give feedback? How will the coachee react? How do i avoid discussion and defensiveness? When do i give feedback?

Give feedback on a regular basis: don’t pile up you feedback for the big feedback talk. When all feedback is saved until the yearly HR performance talk, the feedback is too late (lagging). Your colleague couldn’t act upon it to improve his performance during the remainder of the year. Saving every thing until the last day can lead to surprises, disbelief and arguments.

There are theories about the time between the behavior observed and the feedback talk: interrupt immediately, right after the facts, wait for two days, … There’s no silver bullet here: make the careful consideration yourself and adapt to the specific situation.


  • Use objective and observable behaviors as examples: these are not open for discussion.
  • Give feedback on a regular basis: don’t pile up you feedback for the big feedback talk.
  • Make sure you have the mandate to give feedback. If in doubt, ask!
  • Pick your battles: address the most urgent learning points, but do not overload (and depress) your coachee.
  • Make sure the coachee can act upon the learning points: there’s no need to give feedback if you can do nothing with it.

The feedback framework

Giving feedback

Receiving feedback

Step 1 – Describe observed behaviors
Behaviours that can be seen. Avoid interpretation.

Step 1 – Listen actively
Let people know that you view feedback as useful .

Step 2 – Describe perceived effects
Your personal perception of the impact the behaviors have or had. It is not open for debate

Step 2 – Avoid becoming defensive
Reflect on what is being said. Acknowledge the perception of the feedback giver.

Step 3 – Pause
Allow the recipient of the feedback to reflect and ask clarifying questions if necessary.

Step 3 – Ask clarifying questions
Don’t hesitate to probe for understanding.

Step 4 – Make suggestion
Provide practical, helpful ways in which they may change their behavior, should they choose.

Step 4 – Show appreciation
Saying “thank you” shows appreciation.

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