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5 ways to be a positive-minded leader, influencer or collaborator

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We’ve all experienced people who exude positive energy – they bring a brightness to any situation, are usually successful at what they do, and they don’t seem to be so phased when things go wrong.

Organisations benefit greatly from these optimistic individuals, wherever they work in the company, and at top leadership level it’s a powerful vitality that can spread out across the different levels and units. Positivity is infectious, influencing and motivating, bringing wellbeing and causing many beneficial knock-on effects.

There are many things we can all do to boost our levels of positive-mindedness. Here are five key ones:

Managing the mind

managing mind brainWhat we carry with us at any point in time is a result of core beliefs, values, experience – in short, our unique ‘map of reality’ with which we navigate our daily world.

Our individual maps are the reason why one person might look at a situation very differently to another. For example, one might view the leaving of a key person as detrimental to the business, one of their highest values being loyalty, whilst another may view it as an opportunity for change and fresh ideas because they value innovation.  Both valid viewpoints, based on priority values.

Our beliefs drive our behaviour, but they may not always serve us well. As Edward de Bono stated “A belief is a perceptual framework which leads us to see the world in a way that reinforces that framework. The circularity is a very natural function of a self-organizing patterning system, so beliefs are very easy to form. In a sense ‘belief’ is the truth of a perceptual system. When you burn your finger at a fire only once in a lifetime, you are operating a belief system…Your initial trauma creates a belief that prevents you from ever contradicting that belief, so the circularity is established.”

To manage our mind and turn around those unhelpful beliefs, we need to investigate our map of reality by:

  • Questioning our thoughts – when we find ourselves making the same choices or decisions over again, or answering with the same responses –  in order to uncover hidden belief systems and their origins.
  • Being open to discarding those belief systems that aren’t serving us, to free us of thinking habits that can lead to the same unwanted results, and expose us to new thinking that can move us forward.
  • In the same way, we can also help others to also challenge their beliefs, either on a personal level or as a standard practice approach to meetings and collaborative decision-making. A great tool that helps challenge belief patterns is Karim Benammar’s Reframing Tool

Managing emotions and empathising

Studies show that emotions pay a huge part in our daily lives. Yet our cultures, generational preferences and early influences have all had a part in whether or not we are in the habit (or even aware of the benefits) of tapping into them for the wisdom they contain.

The problem is we do too much thinking. Of course we need to apply focused thought when working on ideas, data, plans, etc. but often our overthinking gets in the way, especially when it involves people. Assumptions, judgements, exaggerations all hamper what we take in with our senses.

Feelings, on the other hand, are like our barometer and when we take notice, they can lead us towards the source of the solution, and a way to better decisions.

To harness our feelings we need to notice the first signs of agitation, then:

  • Stop and take a breath to bring us into the moment.
  • Scan our body for sensitivities – restrictions, tightness or whatever the physical sensation may be.
  • Let that sensation help us articulate the ‘feeling(s)’ we are experiencing – which can then lead us to understand what need is not being met for us at that particular time.

Getting into the habit of that process whenever we get unnerved can help us learn what our body is telling us, bypassing the often confusing and negative thought process going on in our minds and giving us a positive approach to meeting our need in a different way to our usual automatic response.

feelingsIt’s equally powerful for us to take notice of others’ feelings, in our interactions with people. In a simple process of empathy, particularly important during any potential conflict situation, we can choose to put aside our ego momentarily in order to ‘transpose’ ourselves into the other’s situation, to try and feel what that person might be feeling and experiencing. What can ensue when this happens is a delicate change of stance within us, maybe even a slight softening, which can influence the way we verbally respond, and in turn have a positive effect on the other.

Focusing equally on the needs of the organisation and its employees

There may be a list of corporate ‘values’ posted on the walls and website of the organisation, with a pledge to respect and value employees, but when push comes to shove over strategic decisions, it’s often the needs of the business that prevail. As the entrepreneur Peter Jones says, ‘a business is nothing without its people’, and a successful leader needs to put the needs of employees up alongside those of the business.

Dr Marshall Rosenberg (Nonviolent Communication) talks about key basic universal human needs: ‘regardless of our many differences, we all have the same needs. What differs is the strategy for fulfilling these needs.‘ Looking at some of the key ones he lists e.g. security, contribution, growth, respect, autonomy, effectiveness, it’s apparent that employees’ and organisations’ needs are very similar.

To ensure all needs are taken into consideration:

  • Always ask yourself ‘what is the underlying need’ for any situation, decision, idea, person’s behaviour.
  • Particularly during decision-making, map the needs of the various stakeholders against the choices that are open, to gauge which needs will be met by each decision choice.
  • Where there may be conflict, use mediation – the focus with mediation is very much on understanding the needs of both parties, and finding a positive solution to meeting those needs collaboratively.

Language-based positivity

“Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind.’”

Rudyard Kipling

The words we choose are so much more important than the credit we give them. Words have the power to lift up and to put down. Indeed it is the choice of our own and others’ words which have contributed to our beliefs in the past, be they helpful or not so helpful.  And it follows that choosing every word carefully is an important task.

Some simple things we can do include:

  • Speaking with positive actions – our brains tend to focus on the command in a sentence, rather than the negating quality. So when someone says to us ‘don’t turn around now …..’ our first reaction is to turn around. We should frame our wording around the action we’d like to provoke rather than the action we don’t. So, instead of ‘don’t run’, tell them to ‘walk’. Instead of saying ‘I don’t want the report to be too long, or too detailed’, explain how long and how much/which detail you want.
  • Replacing negative thoughts when you catch them, and looking for the positives in a situation – when a situation arises that you might consider ‘negative’, task yourself to list 10 good that it brings. Relatively easy when you’re behind a slow car and you’re already late for an important meeting, but you may need to dig deeper for graver situations. It’s a challenge, but it can be done.

“Don’t look for opportunities in the far distances of space and time, but embrace them right where you are, because where you are already has the perfection and the balance.”

Napoleon Hill, the author of Think and Grow Rich

Gratitude and celebrationgratitude flowers

It is well documented that gratitude goes a long way. Thanking someone is a simple act that can give an immeasurable boost, with knock-on effects.

  • A wider celebration of a team or organisation’s efforts is advisable on a regular basis – an acknowledgement of what has been achieved, however large or small, and the results it has brought.

And on a personal note, how many times do you find yourself bemoaning the ‘to do’ list at the end of the day, with all the entries that haven’t yet been ticked? Turn it around and congratulate yourself on those that have been ticked – even if there is only one – and muse on all the ramifications that one action may have had.

When we focus on what we have done rather than what we haven’t, it soon starts to have a beneficial effect on the mind.

‘78 percent of employees … are motivated more when recognised for accomplishments’  

 Globoforce Workforce Mood Tracker study




Penelope Newton-Hurley is a Communication Troubleshooter,Consultant, Trainer and Mediator
The Communication Troubleshooter helps drive engagement and performance through Emotional Intelligence and CommPassion© Communication techniques.

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