Follow Your Stars to a Bright Future

Jan 24, 2019

By William Seidman and Richard Grbavac

QuickBurger was in fourth place in the industry and could not compete with the top three in terms of products or pricing. But Paul, the executive vice president of operations, believed they could outperform the competition.

If all of their regional, district, and restaurant managers became as effective in leading their teams as the star performers, QuickBurger could create and sustain a culture of extraordinary guest service that would propel them to first place.

What would it mean to you and your organization if everyone became as good as your star performers? Everyone would be aligned in working toward something important, a compelling collective purpose. Everyone would believe that their teammates had the commitment and skills to achieve it.

Organizations filled with this kind of energy are great places for their people and for the bottom line.

This article is about a revolutionary methodology, based on new science and technology that uses an organization’s own stars to transform others into extraordinary leaders. Their cumulative impact creates and sustains cultures of greatness.

We call this methodology Affirmative Leadership.

Affirmative Leadership is a scientific, proven methodology for creating leadership programs that are based on each company’s own unique strengths and needs. Many Fortune 500 companies have used it with astonishing results for their people and bottom line. At one company, employee turnover went from over 250% to under 100%. An $800 million per year advertising company doubled its sales. A large semiconductor manufacturer’s inventory management forecasting became twice as accurate: Each percentage point of improved accuracy increased profits by $50 million.

In the past, because of less than stellar results of previous improvement programs, leaders of organizations have frequently concluded that the risks of driving for significant performance improvements outweighed the benefits. Affirmative Leadership changes the calculus of the risks and makes it easier to commit to change.

The Science Behind Affirmative Leadership

Affirmative Leadership succeeds where other programs fail because it is based on the synergy between new developments in neuroscience, technology, and the new science of positive deviance (the study of people who dramatically outperform their peers). Affirmative Leadership uses this synergy to inspire and reinforce consistently great leadership from executives, middle managers, team leaders, and individual contributors. It gives organizations both a model for leadership that is particularly effective in the real world of uncertainty and speed and a very efficient methodology for developing more and better leaders.

In traditional approaches to leadership, executives and senior managers set the bar for performance. The science of positive deviance suggests a very different and more effective approach. It says that in any group of people, some consistently and systematically outperform others. These are the Stars.

Stars’ attitudes, thinking, and behaviors are different. These people drive the success of your company out of all proportion to their numbers. They love what they do and have a passionate commitment to it. They’re not only great at their jobs; they have a profound, compelling sense of purpose that is always aligned with a desire to improve the world for other people. And they get things done. Nothing gets between these people and achieving their mission, whatever the circumstances or situation. They are admired throughout the organization for who they are as much as for what they do. They are your stars: the source of the knowledge, wisdom, and passion the Affirmative Leadership program uses to transform your organization

The Affirmative Leadership Methodology

Affirmative Leadership is developed and implemented in four phases that have been used in hundreds of companies with tens of thousands of people in all parts of the world with great success. Here is an overview of the phases, including approximately how long each takes.

Phase 1—Discover: First, a company efficiently and reliably identifies its stars and invites them to participate in a three-day workshop designed to help them and the organization discover their wisdom .A skilled facilitator interviews the group and guides them to define their compelling purpose and articulate how they became so good at what they do.

Phase 2—Prepare: Next, the project team prepares the star wisdom for transfer to others  by creating a learning program consistent with the neuroscience of learning. This program both optimizes learner motivation and teaches learners exactly how to become like the stars. The company chooses its coaches, who will be guiding a learning group of three to fifteen potential Affi rmative Leaders through their development program. A facilitator then trains the coaches and guides them through practice coaching for an additional three to four months until they are performing as great coaches.

Phase 3—Launch: Coaches meet with their learning group of potential Affirmative Leaders and begin teaching them. They begin with a six-hour workshop that uses  the star wisdom to help the group define a personal and group purpose and develop a plan for mastering their roles. Participants are shown how to become self-directed learners. By the end of the workshop, they are both highly motivated and ready to start an intense learning experience.

Phase 4—Guided practice: For four to six months after the workshop, learners complete weekly practice exercises that require practical application of Affirmative Leadership. The coaches help each learner adapt and personalize these exercises, lead weekly group discussions about the learning experiences, and systematically drive the reflective learning that leads to internalization of the desired leadership attitudes and behaviors. By the end of the program, more than 90% of learners consistently demonstrate the same attitudes and behaviors as the stars.

Everything in Affirmative Leadership can be used with a small group or globally for thousands of leadership candidates at once even if they are in different cultures or countries.

Excerpted, with permission of the publisher, from The Star Factor: Discover What Your Top Performers Do Differently—and Inspire a New Level of Greatness in All. Copyright 2013, William Seidman and Richard Grbavac. Published by AMACOM, a division of American Management Association.

About the Author(s)

William Seidman and Richard Grbavac are coauthors of The Star Factor. William Seidman is a recognized expert on the subject of executive decision making and performance improvement, and cofounder, CEO, and president of Cerebyte, a consultancy focused on increasing organizational performance. Richard Grbavac joined Crebyte in 2002, bringing 27 years of experience in sales, product development, organizational development, and consulting.