Ask any business owner, manager, supervisor out there about their top challenge and with very, very few exceptions they will say “employees.” The phrasing changes but the core issue focuses on the challenge of finding team members focused on the success of the company and keeping them focused on the success of the company. Ask almost any employee about their top challenge at work and with very, very few exceptions they will say one of three things–my boss, limited or no opportunity for growth, work overload. You know the adage: “people don’t quit jobs, they quit managers.” Those rare people who say something like, “I love my job” or “I have the best team” are few and far between.
The odd juxtaposition is that just about every employer tells us they value their employees and the majority of employees (according to polls and our experiences) want to be a valuable, contributing part of a successful business. Yet both groups seem to struggle with the other. What if you could change that? What if you didn’t have to be the one wishing for a new boss or new employees? What if you didn’t have to wait for other people to change? You can be the one that begins the change. You can be the one that alters the status quo and redirects the trajectory at your workplace, at your business and your own experience.
Our attitude impacts other–both negative and positive attitudes. Negative attitudes are wildly contagious, spreading like the flu. Positive attitudes do impact others, but they must be cultivated, fertilized, nurtured and protected. The truth is that negativity breeds negativity rapidly and a negative reaction is reflexive. You see it every day. One person comes into the room in a foul temper and the tenor of the room almost immediately changes. A customer snaps at an employee, and then that employee snaps at a co-worker. The dominoes of negativity accelerate through the office leaving a trail of damage. The return on a positive attitude, sadly, isn’t nearly so quick and palpable. A positive reaction even to a positive action isn’t always a natural a reflex and it is nearly impossible to respond positively to a negative action. A positive reaction to a negative reaction takes intentional, committed self-discipline and emotional maturity. It is a skill that only comes with practice.
Developing a positive attitude involves three steps:
- adjusting your own perspective
- focusing on the positive in every situation
- assigning good will to those around you
At profitsquad, we teach three questions that can help you take the first step, adjusting your perspective. Whenever you are feeling (or experiencing something) negative, ask yourself
- What are the facts?
- What are my feelings about those facts?
- What can I do right now to improve the facts or my feelings about the facts–even just a little?
When you separate facts from feelings and then find a way to make an improvement–even a very small one– you taken some control of what you can impact. That step alone re-frames your thinking into a positive direction. Simply identifying a way you can make some sort of improvement gives your mind a charge of endorphins. In that moment, you have begun to focus on the positive which is the second step toward changing your work environment.
Focusing on the positive goes beyond making whatever improvement you can make on your own right now–even though that is a powerful step. We encourage our squad to adopt the New Amsterdam question and make it a sort of mantra. (If you haven’t watched Ryan Eggold as Dr Max Goodwin in New Amsterdam, you need to add it to your binge-worthy list.) We love Max’s go-to response to his team anytime they are upset, complaining, or overwhelmed: “How can I help?” Rather than jumping in on a grip session or defending himself or arguing a point, he asks, “How can I help?” Ask. Ask “How can I help” when someone is venting about an overwhelming project. Ask the question when your boss complains that goals are not being reached. Ask that question when a customer complains about service. In order to answer, they have to focus on a step forward. In order to answer, they have to find something that can be acted on, something forward-moving. With that question you change the trajectory of the conversation. Yes, some people will refuse to respond positively. That’s not on you. You do you. You take control of your actions. If they respond negatively, don’t take the bait. Stick with your decision to improve what you can however you can. The key to this question making a really meaningful–and almost immediate–change in your company culture is your commitment to do whatever you can, whatever you have the power to do, when someone does tell you how you can help.
The third step, “assign good will” comes from a book by Dr. Emerson Eggerich’s book Love & Respect. Eggerich reminds us that the people around us (in the book he is specifically talking about marriage relationships) are, in general, good people with good will. However, we often tend to assign less-than-good motives to people around us, especially when we feel like we have little control or the situation is negative. We hear it a lot when we begin consulting with a company experiencing high turnover. “Nobody around here really cares about the employees.” “Employees want a paycheck but don’t even think about how they can help grow the business.” In this “age of indignation,” assigning ill will has become the norm. Stop yourself. When you read an email, assign good will to the writer. Read it in the voice that you want others to hear when they read your emails. (If you just thought, “Oh no, I don’t want them to do that” or “I know how to put someone in their place when I send an email”–then you need to reframe your thinking and take responsibility for correcting the damage you are doing to your own career and those around you.)
When a co-worker points out an error, assign good will–choose to believe they are helping you improve, helping you correct something before it goes out to the public. When a customer is angry–choose to really listen–like you would want someone to listen to your mom or grandmom or favorite uncle–with a goal of understanding and, if possible, resolving the problem. Assign the good will you want others to assign to you–even when you’re having a bad day.
These steps are fairly simple to explain and easy enough to understand, but implementation and execution are tough–really tough. Our coaches can help you make the changes you want in yourself as a leader and in your team, changes that will take your business to the next level.
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