#ASAE21 Game Changer: How Organizations Can Thrive

The pandemic has been challenging for many associations. Greg Bell, author and leadership coach, has found that organizations that are thriving are asking what’s going well, focusing on their goals, and cultivating relationships.

The pandemic has been tough on associations. Organizations seeking to thrive despite the turmoil can succeed by focusing on what’s going well, spending time working toward their goals, and cultivating relationships, says Greg Bell, a leadership coach and author.

Bell, author of the books Water The Bamboo and What’s Going Well, will be speaking at ASAE’s 2021 Annual Meeting next month. He said it’s important to focus attention on the right things.

“The questions you ask yourself direct what you pay attention to,” he said. “I often ask myself, ‘what’ s going well?’ It gets me paying attention to what’s going well. What you pay attention to determines how you orient yourself, your mindset, what you think about, what you believe, and what actions you take or don’t take.”

In challenging times, asking this question is critical.

“The clients I’ve worked deeply with have thrived during the pandemic,” Bell said. “What’s going well gets them to focus on opportunities, gets them to focus on uplifting the spirit of their employees. It’s a game changer question.”

It’s a game changer, Bell said, because our brains are naturally wired to focus on the negative. This negative bias is a survival instinct that helps us avoid physical threats, like a tiger in the bushes. Only, when not facing physical threats, that negative bias can hinder progress.

“We have to battle that bias most of the time,” Bell said. “We have a short-term memory when it comes to good things. If something good happens, you’re not going to remember. If something bad happens, you’ll remember it forever. So, we have to keep those good things alive because it generates more appreciation, more gratitude, a better mindset.”

In addition to focusing on what went well, it’s important to have a plan for success and follow it, even if the rewards don’t appear for a long time. In Water The Bamboo, Bell noted that giant timber bamboo seeds must be watered and tended to for more than three years, before the bamboo plant breaks the surface. Once that happens, though, the bamboo grows 90 feet in 60 days.

“We sensationalize the success, and minimize the work,” Bell said. “Nobody wants to watch somebody grind. We never see the athlete in the weight room and running. We just want to see the Olympic games.”

To further the analogy, Bell notes that organizations have to look at their mission the way farmers look at their fields.

“An impatient farmer won’t grow a crop,” Bell said. “If it takes tomatoes 60 days to grow, and you want them in a day, well, go to the store.” He said for those who like to see results sooner, they “can also put in a cover crop. A cover crop is one that can grow in the meantime. If you’re growing bamboo, you can also grow tomatoes. That can help people with their impatience.”

Another quality that is critical to helping people thrive when times are tough is relationships.

“Individuals that really value relationships will get all kinds of results,” Bell said. “Relationships are everything, whether there’s a pandemic or not. I want to be a phone call away from what I want. Relationships have helped me and everyone else I know that has had success.”

By relying on relationships, Bell said, people “get information and support. All my clients that have thrived through the pandemic have relied on relationships.”

Author and leadership coach Greg Bell. (Handout photo)

Rasheeda Childress

By Rasheeda Childress

Rasheeda Childress is a former editor at Associations Now. MORE

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