How positive are you? Does your leadership demeanour inspire others to be positive and optimistic? How can you find a better way to show yourself in a more confident and enthusiastic frame? How can you be sure you are positive?
I have always been amazed at the difference that can be made to teams, or indeed whole organisations, when their leadership model changes from negative to positive. By that I mean I have seen
organisations limping along with poor business performance and low morale only to be totally transformed by a change of leadership that brought with it a more optimistic approach, whether or not the business skill of the new leader was better than their predecessor.
I have also seen similar transformations where an existing leader experienced some life-changing epiphany which allowed them to express a much greater positive aura than they did previously.
It positively works
Much has been written elsewhere about that phenomenon and there are many personal development programs available to help a person turn around their attitude to life and work from negative to positive.
So if it is almost a universal given that positive attitude is better than negative attitude in the workplace – how come we still see so much of the negative side in managers? Why do some managers or supervisors persist with demotivating behaviours when there is so much science promoting the benefits of positive encouragement?
The answer is really in the very writings that promote the positive perspective. In almost all the models presented there is a strong message that we create our external attitude from the heaven or hell we make of our internal attitude. Typically the commentators tell us that if we think negative thoughts about our own abilities and the abilities of others then we will act as if those negatives are the reality. Conversely if we think positively about ourselves and others we will act accordingly.
Self belief and self confidence are long recognised ingredients for success in business and in life.
“Man often becomes what he believes himself to be. If I keep on saying to myself that I cannot do a certain thing, it is possible that I may end by really becoming incapable of doing it. On the contrary, if I have the belief that I can do it, I shall surely acquire the capacity to do it even if I may not have it at the beginning.” ~ Mahatma Gandhi
The influence of poor role models
Unfortunately it is often others close to us or directing us in the workplace who feed our negative thoughts with their criticism and deprecation. To paraphrase the Mahatma, if you are continually told you can not do something or that your efforts are inadequate, you will come to believe that and your efforts really will become or remain inadequate.
In some instances the negative vibes are created by the “white ants” within the team who seek to spread the contagion of their morose outlook. Good leaders never let the white ant’s drone go unanswered with a more upbeat response.
I have seen team leaders and supervisors join in with disgruntled employees in criticising management and the Board and sowing lack of respect for senior management, merely as a means of solidifying their own position within their group. At the same time they aspire one day to be part of that senior management group and would be intensely hurt to think that their former workmates spoke of them in the same disrespectful tones.
Promoting a positive level of respect for everyone in the organisation should be the role of influential leaders at all levels.
Reap what you sow – be sure you are positive
I also have found that you reap what you sow in terms of positive/negative talk in the workplace. If a supervisor/manager is always moaning about the difficulty of their role or the problems they face, it is likely that their teams will follow a similar course and offer up all manner of excuses as to why things can’t get done. Conversely I have seen managers facing considerable challenges in delivering formidable targets under serious time and resourcing constraints, achieve magnificent results through their strongly positive leadership of their people, who then responded with equal positivity to succeed.
Norman Vincent Peale established the foundation in is prescient work The Power of Positive Thinking which still remains arguably the principal reference work in the genre. His philosophy is simple and uncomplicated and places each of us individually in control of our own destiny to achieve a positive future for ourselves – whatever the world circumstances throw at us.
It is the same in the workplace where we as managers can form and sculpt the raw environment presented to us by means of our own attitude and determination to act according to positive rather than negative motivation. By encouraging our teams to adopt the same approach we create the prospect of a multiplier effect whereby positive thinking and acting produces even more positive and successful thinking and acting.
Some simple rules for a positive workplace
Work on the Culture – poor organisational culture will perpetuate negative attitude. Good leaders work constantly to improve the surrounding culture to reflect a positive approach to every challenge.
Share a Positive Vision – positive leaders share their vision every day with everyone in their sphere of influence and encourage their managers and employees to do the same. It goes without saying that the vision they share must be positive and inspiring.
Turn negativity into positive initiatives – Always challenge the nay-sayers and complainers to find solutions, always be receptive to positive ideas and value contributions that take the workplace forward rather than backward.
Lead by Example – never be caught speaking ill of others or degrading organisational efforts. Temper criticism with praise where due.
Positive people tend to be light-hearted when things are grim and this often serves to boost the capacity of others to deal with difficult situations with courage.
(Image: Courtesy maritimequest.com)
When the crew of HMS Sheffield, mortally damaged by an exorcet missile during the Falklands war, were huddled on deck waiting for rescue, some larrikin famously led the group in a rousing rendition of the Monty Python classic “Always look on the bright side of life”.
Now that’s positively positive.