Negativity and discord have reached historic levels in our culture. It impacts families, communities, institutions and workplaces. Leaders see the results firsthand, as turnover rises, projects fail to hit their goals, and productivity falls short of expectations.
The Power of Positivity
Just as negativity causes myriad organizational troubles, positivity has the opposite effect. Over the years, studies of corporate performance reveal that a positive culture:
- Inspires people to have better ideas and find better solutions
- Yields more realistic visions and more feasible plans to attain them
- Inspires higher levels of employee engagement, initiative and productivity
- Sees more projects succeed and goals reached
- Does better at overcoming adversity and building unity
- Boosts levels of employee hope and security
- Outperforms competitors with negative cultures (and takes their market share)
- Is more innovative and quicker to market with new products
- Experiences improved communication and collaboration
- Has more employees committed to success
A positive culture clearly drives performance, which translates into greater prosperity for everyone. Only when leaders embrace this concept can they make cultural changes that profoundly benefit their organizations.
Making the Crucial Decisions
Leaders fashion a positive culture by first seeing a need for improvement. Once problem areas are recognized, it’s time to take the next crucial step: making the decision to do something.
Life is difficult and negative enough, notes leadership consultant Jon Gordon in The Power of Positive Leadership: How and Why Positive Leaders Transform Teams and Organizations and Change the World (Wiley, 2017). The only true remedy is to be positive.
But Gordon realizes that simple positivity is insufficient. Being positive, while also being effective, is the perfect combination to overcome negativity’s obstacles. Effectiveness is the blending of reality with a better mindset. One must see things for what they are and implement potent methods to turn around problems.
Leaders must also adopt a positive character—not a superficial positivity, but a genuinely encouraging mindset and determination to see the good in things (and pursue and accentuate them to create a better reality for all).
For some, it may mean stepping out of their comfort zone. Those historically influenced by negative environments and people may find themselves overtaken by pessimism and a critical nature. Their challenge: to reject this pervasive mindset and set a new course—one that may feel foreign at first.
Making these important decisions sets the leader in motion to influence the mindsets around them, to lead the way, and pursue a positive path forward.
Enhancing Your Character
When leaders have a more positive character, their thoughts, behavior, instincts and responses are more receptive to organizational needs. They see a brighter future in which problems become opportunities.
Start building positivity by working to overcome your own negativity, Gordon advises. Reject negative behaviors like complaining, gossip, selfishness, apathy and untruthfulness. By placing a higher value on integrity, honor, service to others, caring and truthfulness, you’ll push negative elements aside, where they belong.
A positive mindset eliminates the need for ego or pride. Fulfillment comes from the joy of positivity and self-worth. The pursuit of excellence with your employees fosters the enjoyment that negativity blocks.
Your employees will experience their own character shifts when leadership no longer tolerates negative behavior. Negative people around you become uncomfortable when behaviors and comments are met with disapproval. Your encouragement makes positivity more appealing to them.
Leading by Positive Example
An organization’s culture is an extension of its leader’s philosophy. Leaders need to let people feel their walk, sense their mindset and be compelled to follow it, Gordon says. Gathering employees to inspire a culture shift has benefits, but nothing influences a following like living positively and loving it.
If your culture encourages acceptance and discourages disinterest, positivity becomes the norm, but it takes time. The transition may be slow. Backsliding may occur after frustrations or crises arise. Your coach can help you maintain your focus and hold you accountable.
Sometimes the example set by positive leaders requires difficult decisions that protect the organization from negative influences. Ineffective products or services may need to be discontinued. Negative, damage-inflicting clients may need to be dismissed. Stricter policies may need to be put in place to deal with conflict or detrimental behavior. Toxic employees deserve the chance to be converted to positivity with the appropriate oversight and counseling. If they choose to remain negative, they may need to be replaced.
Your passion for positivity gives you several hats to wear: role model, cheerleader, guardian, coach, enforcer and rewarder.
Building on a Firm Foundation
A solid, positive culture is undergirded by trust. You earn trust by caring about your people and developing relationships with them. Make this happen by:
- Listening and providing for their needs. Applying active-listening skills helps people feel valued, which improves positivity.
- Encouraging and inspiring your people to think, respond and apply themselves positively.
- Communicating about everything. Give people information, and let them in on the plans to fulfill your vision.
- Getting to know your people, their interests, their lives and aspirations. Let them know who you are by sharing the same.
- Trusting people to make more decisions and be ambassadors of positivity.
- Inviting people into problem-solving activities and allowing them to inject their expertise to make a difference. Celebrating positive outcomes also reinforces a positive mindset.
- Providing coaching and mentoring resources to help your people gain skills and become more valuable contributors.
- Creating a safe environment through transparency and security, where politics, favoritism and deception are rejected. People’s fear and anxiety will be minimized.
In a community of trust, people know each other well enough to think the best of their coworkers, instead of criticizing or grumbling. If your employees sense a greater optimism, your clients and customers will follow suit. Positivity is visible, indicating that a good fundamental culture is at work.
Dr. Maynard Brusman
Consulting Psychologist & Executive Coach
Trusted Leadership Advisor
- Executive Coaching
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- Emotional Intelligence and Conversational Intelligence (C-IQ) Workshops
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