Monday, October 6, 2014

Would you join me in a social experiment?

A word of encouragement from a teacher to a child can change a life.  A word of encouragement from a spouse can save a marriage.  A word of encouragement from a leader can inspire a person to reach their potential.  ~John C. Maxwell

This week I heard someone describe what happened when they intentionally took a break from watching the news.  After taking a hiatus from the news for a number of days, when he returned to watching the news, he was overwhelmed by all of the "bad" news.   

That made wonder, what if we did an experiment.  When I watch the national news I intentionally watch it to the end so I can hear the "feel good" story, or the "good" news.  What would happen if the news was flipped?  What if the "good news" was the first 20-25 minutes and the "bad news" was the final 5-10 minutes?

I don't know what would actually happen, but it makes me ask, have we become a culture that craves the negative, or the bad news, more than the good news?  I have to believe that ratings influence what we see on the news, so we play a role in this. 

And since it's also election season, could that be why politicians run so many negative ads against their opponent?  Because they know it's the negative or "bad" stuff that we are wired to remember?

What does this have to do with leadership?  Well, are most organization leaders also falling into this bad news/negative trap?  What do employees hear from their leaders?  Do they hear the "good," or is most communication they hear from leadership filled with the "bad?"  A number of years ago I recall a leader in a staff meeting say he was going to present the good, the bad, and the ugly.  What did the employees remember after that meeting?  The ugly, that's all I heard about for several weeks.

I'm not suggesting that leaders should be Pollyannaish in their communication.  But what we remember most, what we respond to (i.e., TV news ratings) is the "bad news."

Actual research has been conducted around this very idea.  Based on psychologist and business consultant Marcial Losada’s extensive mathematical modeling, 2.9013 is the ratio of positive to negative interaction necessary to make a corporate team successful.  This means that it takes about three positive comments, experiences, or expressions to fend off the languishing effects of one negative.  Dip below this tipping point, now known as the Losada Line, and workplace performance quickly suffers.  Rise above it—ideally, the research shows, to a ratio of 6 to 1—and teams produce their very best work.

Imagine what might happen to organizations, and dare I say countries, if we all started following the premise of the Losada Line?  So for the next week, will you join me in intentionally out-weighing the bad with the good at a ratio of 6 to 1?  Let's try it and see what results from our counter-cultural social experiment.

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