Positive outliers – being relevant or being significant?


I’ve been delivering facilitated workshops using parables to cover the key learning for just over five years. I love this facilitation method as it is a fun and interesting way of conveying a powerful message that keeps the participants interested over the whole of a one or two day session. Furthermore, it allows a common language across the organization that is easily understood by everyone no matter what the culture.

For the workshop Leading Positive ResultsTM we use the parable “The Orange Frog” written by positive psychology guru Shawn Achor. It is a beautifully written parable based on Shawn’s extensive research in positive psychology about four frogs who transition from tadpoles to frogs all at the same time. In the parable green represents being ordinary or having a lack of meaning in what they feel at work. Each frog is green at the start of the parable. Being green limits us in reaching our potential. Being orange on the other hand represents having a positive mindset, basically, being a positive outlier. When your mind is set to ‘orange’ you are better able to achieve all that you wish to achieve.

Slowly, as the various frog characters (Bull, Misty, Plop, and Spark) face different challenges and overcome them, they become more orange. Spark is the positive outlier who starts the transition from green to orange. He has to overcome numerous obstacles on his journey to becoming orange as we would in the workplace. Being orange is not easy. In fact it is easier to go along with the status quo and stay green. You see, being orange – being positive – might make common sense but it is not common practice. One of the many lessons to be learned is that being orange or being happy and positive is a choice we can all make. It does however require behavioural change. The good news is that this positive behaviour is teachable if we follow disciplined routines – these are covered by Shawn’s research and in the workshop. So here’s the thing, if we are willing to make the necessary changes to fulfill our potential we can improve every single business outcome significantly.

It should be noted, that being orange (or positive) is not about lying to ourselves or turning a blind eye to the negativity that surrounds us. It is about adjusting our brain so that we see ways to rise above our circumstances, as we see Spark do in the parable. Being positive is a great asset that many leaders need to adhere to but being too optimistic is perhaps as damaging as being too pessimistic. We need to set realistic and achievable goals. The old saying “shoot for the sun and you may reach the moon” is a recipe for failure. We need to take things one-step at a time. Start small and slowly expand. As they say, “write a novel one page at a time”. All it takes is to focus on small manageable goals that are challenging enough but realistic and you will soon start to turn “orange”. You can be relevant (average), or you can be significant (a positive outlier). Which would you rather be? The choice is yours.

Paul Rigby
President International Business

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