What is going well at work?

People are wired to notice what goes wrong, what could be a threat, and what is missing. It’s what saved us during our evolution, in times of danger and scarcity. Negative comments, events, mistakes, problems and threats stand out. It’s natural, and often also reinforced by our upbringing and training.

Many business schools and managers still focus on solving problems, instead of stimulating and amplifying what is already working well. Of course, sometimes you need to fix that problem and focus all your time, energy, and resources until it’s resolved. But some problems may not fall into that category of being both urgent and crucially important… The wisdom lies in “picking your battles” as they say.

Focus on what works

Some problems might go away if you don’t feed them with too much attention. Some issues aren’t important, after all. Some threats could be bypassed with just a little adjustment.

Instead, focus (more) on what is working well: it might double or triple if you feed it with attention and energy. How great would that be for your team, your goals, or organization?

Though it might not feel natural, looking for what is going well can be learned. The effects may be stunning. It’s the basis of Appreciative Inquiry and of Positive Organizational leadership. That’s why we practice it in the Positive Culture Academy.

The first step is to start noticing what is going well, instead of focusing on everything that’s wrong. This can be a source of positive energy, and it might release a lot of positive action to amplify the outcome; the second step. From good to great to “positive deviance” (which means: sustainable high performance, term coined by Positive Organizational leadership).

  • What is working well in your organization that you’d like to keep and amplify?


Let’s review what some participants of the Academy answered. Many things are working well in Alex’ organization. “A CEO who’s very open, with realistic expectations, encouraged transparency. The company actively looks to improve in many areas, it promotes personal growth and expects hard work while also interjecting fun.” Nice example of Work Hard, Play Hard, Learn More!

This is the main focus, even though there are some areas of improvement. Alex diagnoses he would prefer “a higher level of self-awareness among individuals, especially some at the senior management level, and more vulnerable/authentic interactions from all employees. We say we strive for excellence, but personal responsibility for improving self-awareness is not upheld by all.”

It’s great that at least the CEO is open, being the change that he wants to see in this organization. In addition, Alex says: “I will strive to exemplify vulnerability and have candid one-on-one’s with co-workers.” This is a great way to build trust and connection, showing others the speed of trust… This openness fits a “Work Hard, Play Hard, Learn More” company, and could work if enough people commit to being authentic at work. It’s Alex’ challenge to inspire as many others as possible with his positive, authentic interactions.

I’ll share more examples in my next post. For now, my question for you is:

  • What is working well in your organization that you’d like to keep and amplify?

Can you start appreciating what might be hiding in plain sight?

Do you want to amplify what is working well? Join the online Positive Culture Academy. Many people are starting in September, if you want to learn with others! That’s why we have a special, temporary offer. Check it out! The curriculum can be done self-paced as well. Help your team or organization develop its positive potential.

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