Leaders, follow the bright spots

Follow the bright spots. The previous sentence contains four words. Only four words. Leadership advice should be simple. The sentence is indeed simple, but it includes a profound message for day-to-day leadership. In my opinion, leadership is too often problem-focused. We have issues, problems, situations, and concerns with which leaders must work. Managing a fast-growing company exposes the paradox quite often. For example, to increase a company’s profitability, leaders can tackle the problems of a low-performing unit or give more resources and personnel to a well-performing team. Amplifying a well-performing business is often easier than solving problems of a low-performing operation, and it is likely to produce better bottom-line results.

Initially, the advice struck me in Switch, which is a book by Chip and Dan Heath about how to improve change leadership. The authors explain bright-spot focus; they relate a lovely story about how personnel assisting malnourished children in Vietnam studied the local families and found healthier kids compared to the typical situation. They found the bright spots. After reviewing the differences in parents’ behaviour, the personnel taught the locals how to prepare better food with the same ingredients they already had. Excellent. The book was published in 2010, and I guess I read it just after the publication. The book made an impact on me because I still remember the four words and the malnourishment story. If you’re one of the impatient, you can read or watch Dan Heath’s interview from FastCompany website. It conveys the bright-spot message in short form by another example.

When managing, problems are mostly the focus. Controversially, when leading, bright spots are central to the action. So when you gather the agenda for your next meeting, are you amplifying the bright spots, or are you having only problems to be resolved?