Want Positive Results? Start With Positive Questions

Imagine what your credit union could be like if you operated at optimal level day in and day out.

Imagine what ideas you'd come up with if instead of analyzing problems and their possible causes you strategize about how to bring more of your best into everyday operations.

Imagine what positive energy you could generate if instead of focusing on your deficits, deficiencies, disappointments, you focus on your strengths, successes, and skills.

Credit unions came into existence because of someone's imagination. Community CUs are a result of someone's imagination. Expanded products and services offerings evolved from someone's imagination. Sales and service cultures became popular because of someone's imagination. Marketing programs and ideas emerge from someone's imagination.

Imagination: it's what you need to grow and develop. The more active your imagination is, the more ideas and innovations you come up with and the better you can imagine changes, improvements, and actions, the easier it is to produce the outcomes you want.

Without imagination, you can't find answers. Without imagination, you can't formulate strategy. Without imagination, you can't expand. You need imagination to take your credit union to the next level.

So how do you nurture imagination in your CU? You examine critical organizational issues from a positive rather than a negative perspective. You focus on what's right rather than what's wrong. You recognize excellence and create conditions that support excellence. Imagination needs this type of fertile ground to kick in gear. There are three things you can do to create fertile ground for imagination within your credit union: attend to your sources of vitality, springboard from your strengths, and ask questions in a positive way.

Nurture Strengths, Not Weaknesses

Attending to your sources of vitality means you seek out and nurture those qualities that give your credit union life, energy, and hope. It's easy to turn your attention more toward your sources of weakness than to your sources of vitality.

After all most organizational development approaches focus on seeking out problems and fixing them. But focusing on what's wrong and not working takes your attention to deficiencies, mistakes, and leads people to feel drained and defensive rather than energized and motivated. Find out what energizes and excites your people; provide these conditions and unleash their power of imagination and innovation.

Springboarding from your strengths means you closely examine your strengths, skills, and successes. What are you best at? What has worked well in the past? What are your accomplishments? Once you've answered these questions, you can identify trends, themes, and patterns that enabled your people to produce their best.

You can mine your strengths and resources to address your concerns and challenges, to improve parts of your credit union that are not working as well as you'd like, and to take your credit union to the next level.

Engage your people in dialogue about shared values, peak experiences, meaningful traditions, moments of excellence, best practices, and competencies and see how much more productive and inspiring this type of dialogue is than discussions about missed commitments, low morale, job dissatisfaction, burnout, weaknesses, and incompetence.

Affirmative Action

Asking questions in a positive way means you word them in an affirmative way. Instead of asking "What are we doing wrong," ask "What are we doing well?" Instead of asking "Why can't we reach the younger market," ask "How can we reach the younger market?" The wording influences your thinking.

Questions often have assumptions buried deep within them. For example, the previous question about whose fault something is assumes that someone has to be at fault. The question about how you can ensure high quality assumes that you have the ability to ensure high quality. These distinctions are subtle but significant. Word questions and frame issues in the positive rather than the negative and see how much easier it is to stimulate imagination and needed for change, growth, and improvement.

Your sources of vitality, your strengths, and your questions are the seeds of greatness that when nurtured can lead to growth you never thought possible. Think about what you could accomplish if you paid less attention to your perceived limitations and problems and more attention to your potential and possibilities.

Imagination: it's what will enable you to take your credit union to the next level. If you can imagine it, you can create it. But imagination needs fertile ground. To create that fertile ground within your credit union, address your critical issues from three perspectives: attend to your sources of vitality, springboard from your strengths, and ask questions in a positive way. Imagine yourself doing more of your best at an even higher level than you are now-and then make it happen.

Barbara Wirtz is President of Wirtz Consulting. She can be reached at bwirtz@wirtzconsulting.com or 541.344-8213.