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Articles > Positioning Systems Newsletter # 74 10-30-07 “The Cynic vs. Appreciative Inquiry”

I find myself getting down on myself and the prospects for the business. It seems like I’m always searching for what’s wrong. Doesn’t a coach and consultant do this as well, and won’t that negative approach affect me further and my employees? What can I do to prevent that?

Being a business owner requires a great deal, most importantly a positive self-expectant attitude. Our business is a reflection of ourselves and there is nothing that can begin to pull us down more than our own beliefs about where we are headed. If you believe you are headed in a positive direction your attitude will be good. If you believe otherwise your attitude will be bad.  The danger in the latter is self-evident.

We all started our business with great hope and belief that it could be the key to financial and personal independence. Over time as we become bogged down in the tactical work and get immersed in all the activity it takes to operate the business we may lose touch with those high ideals and beliefs we had when we started.
The problem with being a small business owner invariably is that we feel we have to be the business and we don’t make time for the work ON the business. Okay, you’re saying here’s the reoccurring nonsense about working IN versus working ON again.
The danger is that we lose the elevating emotional aspects that working ON brings. At this level of attention our focus is ON the future. We work ON faith, hope and our belief system. IN the business we are stuck on the mundane, routine work that perpetually weakens us over time to the point we become numb to what’s going on around us. In short we become cynical.
What you begin to feel is what I might call cynical depression. The dictionary defines cynic as: a person who believes that only selfishness motivates human actions and who disbelieves in or minimizes selfless acts or disinterested points of view.  The latter is more prevalent with business owners. We tend to lose interest or worse yet ignore challenges more because we are afraid of what we will find out. Inevitably the condition we ignore becomes worse, and eventually may even put us out of business if we ignore it too long.
The problem with being a cynic is its self perpetuating attitude. In business, cynics are seldom someone who doesn’t care, but rather someone who cares too much. We care so much we are afraid to experience the pain that will surface if we examine the obstacles we are facing. So we don’t work on improving lead generation, or we don’t work with an employee who is having an attitude problem or not coming to work on time because we fear it will uncover a more serious problem and in most cases we have far too many problems to solve already. 
The cure for cynicism is to be aware of it and to work ON your business. That may require hiring a coach. Someone who will help you identify the areas of your business you need to work on, provide you with tools to help you improve them, and most of all believe in you and the potential of your business.
On a trip last week I discovered the power of a book, “The Thin Book of Appreciative Inquiry.” I recommend it to anyone who’s been in business for some time to help unravel the cure to many of your current business problems. Marcus Buckingham, author of several books including “The One Thing You Need to Know,” mentions that the problem with history is not that it repeats itself but that most of us fail to learn from it. The key to discovering how to fix the things currently going wrong in your business often times is to simply review when things were going well. Look at your history. What were you doing in the past when business was good that you can learn from and apply now? Appreciative Inquiry suggests getting your team together and having them help you reflect on this. The power often isn’t so much in what you’ll discover as much as it is in getting everyone together to discover it. A sense of unity, commitment and most of all faith and belief rise from this exercise, giving you and your staff the feeling you are unstoppable. After all you’ve done it before, right? 
I urge you to discover and use this Appreciative Inquiry approach. If you plan to hire a coach, look for one who beyond seeing your faults recognizes your strengths and focuses on those in solving your challenges. Regardless of whether you decide to hire a coach recognize that developing a habit for working ON your business is one of the most significant aspects you can achieve. Working with a business coach will force you to be accountable for this. As you routinely spend time strategically working on the long term aspects of your business, your attitude changes. Your focus becomes more positive as you envision the results you expect. Make it a habit to spend at least 2 hours each week working long term on your business. The results will do wonders to your attitude.

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Positioning Systems helps business owners and entrepreneurs transform their business.  We provide the tools and coaching to help you take control of your business -- rather then having your business control you.