Do You Lead Positive?

This spring, I shared excerpts from a wonderful set of conversations I’d had with Dr. Kathy Cramer. Just talking with her on the phone, I could feel the vitality in this woman. She was a powerhouse, and in an unusual way. Her passion was about helping people to focus on the positive. And man, was she positive. It was contagious, and inspiring. Kathy was a force of nature: optimistic; focused on positive change; and directing attention — hers and everyone else’s — on what is possible.

I learned this morning that when Kathy and I were talking, she knew she was dying. I also learned, to my shock and sadness, that Kathy passed away this summer.

Though we spoke only a few times, Kathy touched me deeply with her wisdom and advocacy for focusing on what’s working in our lives. In my last conversation with her, I asked if she would mentor me, and she agreed. Facing life positively as she did, I believe that when she said yes, in some way, she meant it.

In her honor, I’d like to share some of the notes I took while talking with Kathy. In this small way, we keep her teaching alive, paying-it-forward from me to you, as she gave it to me. Beyond my modest tribute here, I encourage you to visit her website, cramerinstitute.com. Of Kathy’s many contributions, two stand out as top of mind: (1) her mindset management system ABT — what she called Asset-Based Thinking — and (2) her approach to life with all of its challenges and setbacks, which she called Lead Positive. You can learn all about those on her site.

What follows are questions, comments, or pieces of advice that Kathy gave me. I realize that she says many of these same things in her speeches and keynotes. But she was such a warm and loving person, that I felt like she was telling this just to me. That’s Kathy.

  • Look for the positive facts in your situation
  • Ask these 3 questions: What’s working? What’s strong? What’s possible?
  • Focus 5 times more attention on what’s working
  • Believe that people can bring out the best in themselves
  • You should count your blessings at the end of every day
  • Before speaking (to a group): picture who is listening. What do they need to hear? Then ask yourself, ‘what is my gift in this moment, for who is right here? What is most meaningful in this moment right now, for me to share with them?’

Perhaps more than any of her tips and techniques, Kathy Cramer actually embodied the messages of positivity and resilience that she preached. Two of my favorite comments from her writing show her life-affirming attitude when confronted with a wrong-turn or unexpected outcome (what others might call a failure, or a mistake). From Kathy:

  • “Each setback will be an opportunity to eliminate what’s not working.”
  • Ask yourself, “what can I do to milk this problem for all it’s worth??”

From Kathy these weren’t platitudes. She didn’t mean to “sugar-coat” life’s challenges with simply “looking on the bright side of things.” On the contrary, she was a deep thinker who cared about improving the human condition. In the face of suffering, she discovered a whole approach to life and to leadership that strengthens what is great and strong and already working in us. She wanted us to live and lead from confidence, appreciating the magnificent human beings we are.

To my dear friend and mentor, Dr. Kathy Cramer. After taking so many heroic journeys yourself, it seems you faced the last Supreme Ordeal with the same radiance and grace that you did all the others. It will now be on us — your followers, your fans, your students and colleagues, your family and community — to bring the rewards of this last journey back across the threshold so we can savor the rewards that your extraordinary life has bestowed on us.

I will miss you. May God bless your soul.

Erica Ariel Fox, a founding partner of Mobius Executive Leadership, is pioneering the discipline of “Creative Human Disruption.” Her first book, Winning From Within, is a New York Times best-seller, and lays out the core principles of her model. She is working on her second book, Lead Yourself First, which details the practices leaders need for continuous professional and personal development. She advises CEOs and top teams with her partners at Mobius Executive Leadership, and she teaches negotiation at Harvard Law School.