LEADERS need to keep a close check on their orientation — where they focus their energy and what they choose to look at.

Many organisations and their leaders have a tendency to see problems first and spend a lot of their time finding solutions to these problems.

This means that the focus of the leader is centred on what is not working and what is going wrong.

You become what you focus on

In the corporate world, many people often get fixated on things that do not work and, in the process, compromise what does.

For example, a manager who channels most of his attention on the non-performers misses out on the performers.

And if he spends too much time fixing the non-performers, he will lose the performers who do not want to be held back waiting for others to get up to speed.

Some years ago, when I implemented a quality programme within one of my businesses, I decided that all our quality audits needed to focus on “catching people doing something right” instead of finding things that were not working.

This meant that we provided the team with timetables in advance, on processes that we were going to audit, giving them a chance to fix things before the audit.

We cycled through all the key processes within the company in this way and, in the process, created ways to reward good behaviour.

The results were very encouraging, as people like rewards and compliments.

Soon, the teams were focused on fixing things in advance of audits and demonstrating the behaviours that were conducive to overall quality improvement, which led to performance improvement.

Encourage positive behaviours

In the book Influencer, authors Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, David Maxfield, Ron McMillan and Al Switzler talk about the study of positive deviance.

This involves finding groups of people within a given environment who demonstrate vital behaviours that bring about positive outcomes.

Within the context of an organisation, it is about identifying those people who are producing consistent results that are better than everybody else.

If leaders empower their teams to locate those who produce good results and then study how they do it, the teams will be able to identify those behaviours that can shift the game positively for the whole company.

To achieve this, leaders need to take a look at their attitude towards their staff.

I have dealt with leaders who believe that most individuals come to work to do a good job, and others who think that most people are lazy and need to be driven.

As it often turns out, leaders shape the environment they operate in.

If they look for negativity, they will find it. It is difficult for a leader to disconnect himself from the day-to-day drama and turn away from the problem areas.

But in truth, he is not turning away from them — he is merely looking to solve the problem by identifying behaviours that create the results that he wants.

A few behaviour changes can drive a big change.

In the case of a medical centre that studied positive deviance among its health-care professionals, research found that it boiled down to just five behaviours that led to customer satisfaction.

These were:

* Smiling,

* Making eye contact,

* Identifying oneself,

* Letting people know what you are doing, and

* Ending every interaction by asking: “Is there anything else that you need?”

It seemed simple, but by marking these five behaviours as a sequence for all its health-care professionals to follow, the medical centre was able to improve customer satisfaction dramatically.

Imagine the impact of this strategy on your whole organisation — to catch people doing the right things for a change.