Are you part of the ‘Deficit Dialogue Dilemma’?

Maybe there are times when all you can think about is the things you don’t have. The deficits. Just ask Aussies about their life and they are not bad or not great. They have no time, or not enough minutes. They are doing not much or not a lot. Which is not great as a conversation starter, it is even worse as a leader, when we have got no wins, no runs on the board, no clients, or no success to celebrate. 

And yes, there are leaders who are in deficit mode. Deficit dialogue is a thing. Now that you know about it, you will start to notice it, and I am going to propose that I am noticing it more in recent times, than in the past… pandemic maybe… or leaders are just not choosing their language well. 

So, what is the opposite of deficit? Surplus maybe. Or abundant, or adequate, or plentiful (none of them rhyme with dialogue, though). Let’s use the word ‘positive’. And no, this is not just a positive thinking post, it’s a positive dialogue post. And it is about using language, and leader language more specifically. Which is important, because it sets the mood, and it sets the culture for your team. 

The more that speak is deficit, the more that deficit shows up. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. And the more that shows up, the more your team will focus on deficit. Or what they don’t have or haven’t achieved. Instead of what they do have or have achieved. Deficit dialogue can show up in one-on-ones, it can show up in team meetings, it can even show up in written communication. It is a big deal, because it instantly changes the mood or the tone of the conversation, and even of the culture of the team or organisation. And it can become habitual. 

Then, one day, you will ask yourself (or your coach, when you are sitting with me) ‘why is everyone so negative all the time?’ 

Here are some strategies that you can try if you are caught in the deficit dialogue dilemma. Sadly, none of them are new or ground-breaking, but they remain current, and useful, for changing the mood of your conversations, or your team. 

Start with celebrating success 

This is an easy one. And in any good meeting, it is the first agenda item (or should be). Start with a positive, and some recognition of personal or team achievement. Too fluffy for some leaders, but essential for all teams, and team members. Or high performing ones, at least. This is the first thing to get dropped from the agenda, when we have ‘bigger fish to fry’. 

Continue with some solutions  

Lots of people, leaders included sometimes, have got lots of problems for every solution. And not a lot of solutions for problems. As a leader be firm on your commitment to talk in solutions and steer the conversation around to what we have to do to move forward, not look back. This is a skill set. 

Finish with symbols 

Remember that everything you say, and do, makes a statement. Know what your body language is doing and ensure that it lines up with your words. This is called being congruent. Incongruency is saying one thing, but either meaning another, or worse, doing another thing. Your team will see right through you. And no, you can’t hide what you are thinking. Although too many people think they can. And end up sending the wrong message. 

Other symbols include making a commitment to avoid deficit dialogue. Or rewarding positive results in general.  

Yes, there are times when we need to address a deficit. I get that. It is not every conversation, though. Make a commitment to surplus speaking and see what happens in your team.  

And please click the image below if you’d like to chat about what leadership means to you.

If you would like to learn more about Anton or The Guinea Group, please click hereto book into Anton’s calendar, to:

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About Anton

Anton has dedicated his working life to helping leaders to upgrade their mindset, upskill their leadership, and uplift their teams! With a focus on helps leaders to better lead under pressure. Anton is an entrepreneur, speaker, consultant, bestselling author and founder of The Guinea Group. Over the past 19 years, Anton has worked with over 175+ global organisations, he has inspired workplace leadership, safety, and cultural change. He’s achieved this by combining his corporate expertise, education (Bachelor of HR and Psychology), and infectious energy levels.
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