Good Gossip: A culture-building practice.

by Kat Schulte | May 1, 2021

Gossip is a culture killer, for sure.   But if done in an alternative way, your team will be well-served by integrating this new “good gossip” deeply into your team rhythms. 

Here’s the deal: We are often blind to our greatest strengths.  The very distinctive qualities that make up our unique blend of human often go unnoticed or unappreciated, and thus undeveloped and underutilized. This is bad news for a team. 

There are multiple reasons for this.

Natural doesn’t seem special.
Often, our greatest strengths are so natural for us, they do not seem like strengths at all.  Just as a fish does not realize it is in water, we often are oblivious to our gifts.  They have always been a part of us and take little effort, so we dismiss them as “normal” (read: not unique or special).

Unnamed strength can present as weakness.
The strengths that live most strongly in us can be so powerful they actually overpower us.  We call this a strength coming out sideways.  When we are unaware of our strengths, they operate outside our consciousness and outside our control.  Our strength creates unintended impact and undermines our success.

The Negativity Bias is real.
Our well-intentioned brains are excellent at remembering when our strengths come out sideways and less adept at recognizing all the ways our strengths serve us.  The moments of failure and frustration associated with our strengths are locked into long-term memory.

Here’s the opportunity:   

We are great observers.  In the workplace, we get to witness the actions and behavior of everyone around us.  In every moment we are gathering data as we witness our coworkers and leaders at their best, at their worst and everything in between.  Our observations impact how we engage.  We then have a choice for what we do with all we observe.

We can:

  • Confirm the negativity bias. Look for and highlight when their strengths come out sideways through direct critique or nefarious gossip (back-channeling)
  • Ignore the humanity of colleagues. Disregard thoughts and talents of our people so they no longer feel like they matter to the org, which results in even lower engagement than criticizing them
  • Practice “Good Gossip.” Look for and highlight the Strengths in our people.  Say what we see, celebrate each other and make room for strengths to grow.

The choice is ours and consciously or not we are already making this choice for all the people in our lives every single day.  There is power in this choice.  As Mary Leakey said, You only find what you are looking for, really, if the truth be known.” Whatever we search for in others we will find, good or bad. 

Here’s the outcome:

Our choice matters because we grow what we pay attention to. If we draw attention to our colleagues strengths, their strengths will grow.  We can help raise their awareness of what makes them great because it is harder to identify those within ourselves.  We can be a catalyst for our team’s growth as they discover the best parts of themselves.  

But that’s not all.  Noticing — truly seeing — another person and articulating the good you find, does wonders for culture.  It has the power to build authentic connection, even in a virtual world.  It fosters psychological safety, which then promotes creativity, productivity, and overall engagement.  

If you want to do one thing to increase the positive momentum of your team, take an hour once a month to collectively notice and call out the Strengths you see in each other.  We did, and it was amazing.

Watch our team practicing Good Gossip

Abbey: “You have accountability with a capital ‘A’, and it’s for the things that really matter — like your people, your team, the work, and what we are calling forth in others.”

Good Gossip Guildelines:

(these are non-negotiable)

  • Gossip TO the person you are talking about
  • Gossip only about people’s STRENGTHS
  • Gossip OFTEN

Download our Good Gossip Guide.

If you want help getting started, we can connect your team with your top Strengths utilizing the Gallup CliftonStrengths assessment.  This tool offers a common language to identify and articulate key talents and strengths.  It provides a platform as you start to engage in good gossip together. 


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