A Leader’s Super Power: Delivering Unprovoked Positive Antecedents!

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I was reading a blog post written recently by Adam Voigt about UPA’s and I wanted to share that with all of my readers. Adam is first and foremost a skilled classroom practitioner and a highly successful Principal.  Earning his first Principalship at the age of 35, Adam has personally led full school turnarounds and also the design and establishment of a brand new school as its inaugural Principal.

His audience is primarily school teachers and school Principals and maybe me. I find that a lot of what he talks about can also be applied to the workplace, irrespective of the age of the people. I also think of teachers as leaders who lead their students through one of their most formative and significant phase of their lives and learning a lot, along the way. So, many lessons that are relevant to the teachers are also relevant to leaders in the corporate settings.

In this blog post, Adam shares the concept of UPA’s:

Undeserved Positive Antecedents

This concept is counter-intuitive. He suggests that we need to contribute something that brings a smile to someone who is struggling to do any good. Positive reinforcements and congratulations when due are difficult (because of how we are configured as a species), doing it when someone hasn’t done anything to deserve it could be unheard of in the corporate world.

As Adam points out, the person who’s not much fun to be around right now is the one who needs a UPA, far more than deserve it. As he suggests, the positivity part lets us know that we need to figure out a way to generate a smile.  A coffee?  A treat?  A break?  A kind post-it note strategically placed?  A slightly inappropriate joke shared? An antecedent is a condition or trigger for the next behaviour and it’s simply worth wondering what this colleague or student might do next if you make them smile.

As leaders, it is important to not only be aware of who deserves a praise for a job well done but also be aware of people who could benefit from a UPA and deliver it for them. This is the social awareness part of “High Performance Leadership” that I talk in my butterfly model of high performance leaders that I have put together. You can read more about this model here.

The impact this can have on that person is significant, as long as they don’t see this as a manipulative behaviour on the leader’s part, which we, as leaders, need to make sure is not from our end. We need to deliver a UPA whole-heartedly for the benefit of the person for whom it is intended. Knowing this to be the truth comes from the self-awareness part of the leadership model that I speak about.

There is only one thing that I will change about this. Instead of calling this “Undeserved Positive Antecedents“, I would call it “Unprovoked Positive Antecedents“.

So, the question I have for you is the following:

Whom are you going to deliver an Unprovoked Positive Antecedent today?

– Mukesh gupta

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