Mindfulness, Resilience and Positive Intelligence (Book Review)

I got a copy of Positive Intelligence at the recommendation of a leadership coach. After having done the “Saboteur” quiz on the Positive Intelligence site, I wanted to learn more about the his approach. While the book gets at some of the concepts I’ve seen in other places, the approach is worth exploring.

The positive intelligence framework is that we have within us Saboteurs, which hold us back, and a Sage, which helps us explore possibilities. While the anthropomorphism initially made me feel a bit awkward, there is some power in ascribing non-productive reactions to a part of your thought process, and giving it a name. The book explains techniques to both be more attentive to, and thus able to suppress, your saboteurs, and also how to “strengthen” your Sage, so you can treat setbacks as opportunities more readily.

Some of the basic themes of Positive Intelligence may sound familiar if you’ve spent any time learning about team leadership, but Chamine’s way of modeling them adds an interesting and compelling twist. Saboteurs are reminiscent of the concept of “survival rules” that I first learned about while reading one of Jerry Weinberg’s Becoming a Technical Leader. Like survival rules, saboteurs are useful in certain circumstances, but have negative effects when you misapply them. Chamine describes how each Saboteur manifests themselves in terms of how you feel, act, and how others may perceive you. He then describes techniques to become more aware of them so that you can take a step back and act appropriately.

In short, this is a book about mindfulness and resilience, both very useful concepts that are very difficult to apply. Even if you feel like you have a basic appreciation of the how to be be more mindful and resilient, reading about them again, and considering a slightly different approach to achieving them can’t hurt.

While it has a business focus, you can apply what you learn to both personal and work situations. The author also explains how to apply the model and techniques in individual and team contexts. And while not about Agile, the book also left me with some ideas for activities to use in Sprint Retrospectives, which are after all, a practice teams use to be more mindful and resilient.

Positive Intelligence is a rather quick read (but you will want to take notes and mark pages), which mixes discussions, stories, and practices, so you can apply what you’ve learned. The book also makes frequent references to resource on the companion website. If you feel that negative reactions are holding you back, even subtly, this book is worth a read.