Appreciative leadership Featured

9:06am EDT February 25, 2005
In their passion for sustainability, business leaders are discovering one of the defining success factors is the ability to create an appreciative culture.

In an appreciative business culture, leaders make it easy for people to perform at their best by helping them focus on their strengths and passions. Appreciative leaders know that people do their best work when their work is inspired by constant attention to their successes and strengths, what's working and why.

Not everyone gets it. According to the Gallup Organization, only about 20 percent of 1.7 million employees surveyed globally say their organizations make good use of their strengths. That means 80 percent don't believe their talents are being properly used.

Benefits of appreciative leadership

Appreciative leaders express more interest in the passions, strengths and successes of their teams than in their weaknesses, problems and deficiencies. They believe a negative focus might evoke perspiration but not inspiration.

People who work with appreciative leaders feel more trusted than micromanaged and more confident in their strengths than demoralized about their weaknesses. In appreciative organizations, leaders make sure people's work is designed in a way that engages their strengths and that goals are defined in ways that engage imagination.

On the flip side are deficiency managers, who obsess over what's wrong, who's at fault and why. Appreciative leaders help people obsess over what's working, what's improving and why. They are certain that when people take an appreciative focus to themselves and their work, they perform with optimum levels of self-confidence, self-trust and enthusiasm for improvement.

How to become an appreciative leader

People dedicated to creating appreciative cultures passionately work toward creating them, whether that takes months, years or generations. But several things accelerate the learning curve.

Training and coaching managers, leaders and leaders of leaders in appreciative leadership helps. Involving people in the defining of performance goals and metrics helps. Fostering a culture of innovation and creativity dedicated to "wow" experiences for customers helps.

But in the end, it matters little how long the transition takes. What matters is the passion with which we embrace every opportunity to take steps in the direction of appreciation. Ultimately, the organization's tendency toward appreciation will self-organize into a sustainable momentum of success.

Jack Ricchiuto is a leadership and team performance coach and facilitator. He is the author of "Collaborative Creativity, Accidental Conversations, Project Zen," and the recently released "Appreciative Leadership." Reach him through his Web site at