How to Respond to Good News Like a Leader

Don’t expect high performance when you sabotage enthusiasm.

“Death and life are in the power of the tongue.” Jewish Proverb

Words have consequences. You don’t have to be a genius to identify words that energize people and words that suck the life out of people.

Conversation starters:

  1. What do you love doing?
  2. What are you great at?
  3. Why did they hire you?
  4. What do people see in you that invites them to trust you?
  5. Go ahead and brag. What’s going well?

More good things are happening in your organization than bad. The problem is, you notice bad with greater frequency and intensity.

Energizing response:

Response invites response. Learn to respond in ways that strengthen relationships and produce results.

Shelly Gable’s research found that people commonly respond to good news in one of four ways.

4 responses to good news:

Passive destructive response: 

  1. Disinterest.
  2. Lack of attention.
  3. Changing the topic of conversation.
  4. Acts distracted. (Looking at your computer screen or watch.)

“Guess what happened to me.”

Passive constructive response:

  1. Passive engagement.
  2. Low enthusiasm.
  3. Casual smile.
  4. Nodding.

“That’s nice.”

Active destructive response:

  1. Point out problems. Everything isn’t ALL good.
  2. Focus on uncertainty.
  3. Express concern.
  4. Reactive.
  5. Skeptical.

“Are you sure?”

Active constructive response:

  1. “Tell me more.”
  2. “That’s fantastic.”
  3. “How did this happen?”
  4. Physically lean in.
  5. Pat on the back.
  6. Congratulate.
  7. Turn from your computer screen.

“That’s fantastic.”

The video, “Active Constructive Responding,” illustrates all four responses. (YouTube)

Toward energy:

#1. Create an environment where noticing GOOD is part of the mix. I’ve started saying, “Tell me something good.” People look at me like I’m nuts. Just keep doing it.

#2. It takes more skill and intelligence to make positive suggestions than it does to point out what won’t work.

#3. Say, “Tell me something that might work.” Or, “What could we try?”

How do leaders throw cold water on enthusiasm?

How might leaders fuel energy?

Bonus material:

Flourish, Martin Seligman (Book)

Constructive responding worksheet (Pdf)