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From Fixation to Celebration: Shifting Organizational Mindsets for Success

Recently, I've begun posing a thought-provoking question to my clients, the leaders I support as a coach or trainer:

"If there were no problems, would people still seek you out?"

It's a fascinating inquiry. Many leaders concede that without problems to address, they might not be approached as frequently. Some speculate that without problems, conversations could focus on strategic topics, plans, visions, and long-term goals. However, a significant number honestly respond with, "I don't know."

Consider this: if you were shadowing a leader mostly sought out to arbitrate or advise on problems, how would you experience their typical day?

We often perceive these leaders as competent and reliable—key figures for the organization's health and future.

But could it be that they embody the organization's primary deficiency?

Perhaps they compensate for a lack of self-dependence or empowerment, or reflect a rigid control and compliance culture stifling initiative and flexibility. While one prefers to see themselves merely as authority figures symbolizing competence and confidence, this other perspective could offer valuable insights.

It appears that as leaders, we've grown accustomed to being problem-solvers, shaping others' perceptions of us as synonymous with tackling tough issues. This reflects the prevailing leadership culture within organizations and the dominant narratives.

In some organizations, the culture revolves heavily around stories of problems, difficulties, and challenges, with a belief that this fosters resilience and success. However, I'm beginning to doubt this notion. Just imagine how draining these narratives can feel, often leaving people overwhelmed or exhausted.

I believe an organization's resilience arises from empowering success stories and discussions about resources needed for success, even amidst challenges. Consider when was the last time you spent an hour eliciting and sharing stories about small but significant progress on a topic, or about slight improvements in a process, or positive feedback from a colleague about your team's contribution.

We often wait for significant wins or ultimate problem resolutions to report them as "closed," forgetting to celebrate along the way. There's a belief that a job well-done doesn't need acknowledgment—it's just part of the job description. But is it really? How do we generate positive momentum? How do we energize people, teams, and the organization as a whole if not by celebrating?

This is about more than just language; it's about the organization's mindset.

Do we prioritize progress and success, or do we dwell on what needs fixing?

This cultural orientation profoundly impacts the organization's resilience and shapes its future. And most importantly it forms its mindset - fixed or growth mindset.

The fixed mindset is strengthened by the credo that we have no reason for being proud or confident if we have not achieved 100%.

It looks at reality in a black-and-white manner - we are successful or we are not. There’s nothing in between. Think of this one from a practical point of view: you have a monthly sales target - so for a minimum of 2 to 3 weeks as a team, you are failing - you are behind the target and there are these 4-5 days (if you are lucky) when you have a reason to be proud and happy. What a nurturing environment to work in!

Often organizations are cautious of celebrating progress as leaders fear people will become complacent. No, they won’t. People become complacent when they celebrate the final result. They stay flexible, curious, and alert when they celebrate progress.

They get addicted to progress. They anticipate and look for movement. And the movement is possible because they learn to focus on finding opportunities and the needed resources to further progress, as opposed to focusing on finding problems and limitations that threaten their success. The mindset - what we pay attention to feeds our resilience, not the routine of being stuck in challenges and problems.

So think about: What progress do you want to celebrate? What stories do you want to tell?

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