Leaders: Choose Your Own Reality

Guest
post from Dr. Joan McArthur-Blair and
Dr. Jeanie Cockell

Just about every leader has had an employee who was, to say
it diplomatically, a “handful” to manage. We have. One example was a person
Joan worked with – let’s call her Jane Doe. Jane saw policies and procedures as
mere suggestions. She irritated her team with her habit of pushing limits to
get an idea through. When stressed she let it show though in her interactions
with others. Yet, she always received amazing reviews from her direct reports
and colleagues because they saw something important and worthy in her.

Along with her leadership faults, Jane  was innovative, creative, personable,
dedicated, and very hard working. In Joan’s time working with her, Joan chose
to focus on her abilities and how she used those abilities to champion what
needed to get done. Notice the word choice here—Joan chose. She could have focused entirely on Jane’s weaknesses and
frustrated all of  her attempts to
undertake positive work. Yet, she consciously chose not to do this. She
consciously chose to “reframe” the situation and foster Jane’s leadership
strengths.

The
power of reframing

Reframing is about intentionally offering up a different
frame to a leadership situation. The ability to reframe or reinterpret a given
situation enables leaders to see that positive consequences can be built from
even the direst circumstances. What leaders focus on and foster influences the
outcomes both for themselves and for those who work with them.

Reframing is a powerful practice that leaders committed to
positive change embrace. It is one of the many practices of “appreciative
resilience” which we outline in our book, Building
Resilience with Appreciative Inquiry: A Leadership Journey through Hope,
Despair, and Forgiveness
.

Resilience, or the ability to sustain or persevere in the
most complex of leadership and life experiences, is a necessary skill for
leaders to have in today’s fast-paced, volatile world. Appreciative resilience approaches
resilience from the place of assisting leaders in developing their own
understanding and personal call to resilience by using appreciative inquiry. (AI is an approach that focuses on what’s working well by engaging
people in asking generative questions
.)

Using
reframing to build resilience

Leaders often think of resilience as a response to
weathering despair, but in appreciative resilience work, resilience is fostered
from a place of maximizing the use of appreciative exploration as leaders move
through three constant leadership states: hope, despair, and forgiveness.

Through our decades of consulting work, we’ve identified
these three constant states of leadership and have seen the power of reframing
in hope, despair, and forgiveness as part of  building resilience. For example, in hope,
reframing can allow leaders to see possibilities in place of challenges. In
despair, reframing can shed light on the strengths that can sustain a leader.  And, in forgiveness, reframing can empower
someone to move past resentment, anger, and fear and step towards evolving and
growing as a leader.

Living
in today’s world full of multiple realities

Reframing as one of the practices of appreciative resilience
allows leaders to begin to see the other possible worldviews and to be open to
the idea that other views, ideas and directions could have merit. This is
especially important in today’s leadership world where there are many different
worldviews born out of culture, diversity, events, and lived experience.

When leaders see that their perspectives are not always
shared truths, they change how they react. They alter the kinds of questions
they ask, the types of actions they might take, and the openheartedness with
which they might approach what is before them.

There are many people like Joan’s former colleague inside
organizations. The ability to reframe to see these individuals’ strengths, or
other people’s perspectives, or possibilities hidden within challenges opens
the door for leaders to enable positive outcomes. P.S. Jane flourished.
About the authors:
Dr. Joan
McArthur-Blair and Dr. Jeanie Cockell are co-presidents of Cockell
McArthur-Blair Consulting
and co-authors of Building
Resilience with Appreciative Inquiry
, published by
Berrett-Koehler. Dr. Joan McArthur-Blair
is an inspirational writer, speaker, and facilitator. Joan specializes in
the use of Appreciative Inquiry to foster leadership, strategic planning, and
innovative strategies for organizational development. Dr. Jeanie Cockell is a dynamic facilitator known for her ability
to get diverse groups to work collaboratively together. For twenty years,
Jeanie has served as an educational and organizational consultant helping
people, organizations, and communities build positive futures and respond
effectively to change.