Join Todd Dewett for an in-depth discussion in this video Unlocking the power of positivity, part of Motivating and Engaging Employees.
- When I think about motivation and engagement, I always try to remember that the best approaches are completely free. One of my favorite examples is the choice to speak and behave towards others in a positive manner. Everyone has heard someone at some time talk about the need to be positive. In fact, there's a huge industry of consultants, coaches, authors, and religious figures who preach positivity all the time. This has been done so much by so many people that strangely, the idea that positivity is useful has almost become a cliche.
Some people view positive thinking and the glass-half-full mentality as some form of pop psychology. That's unfortunate because what we as social scientists know is that a leader's choice to think, speak, and behave positively leads to measurable benefits for his or her team. These include elevated morale, higher productivity, and stronger talent retention. We also know that emotions at work are infectious. They move like a virus. The bad news is that negative emotions move faster person to person and group to group and stick longer compared to positive emotions.
There's your incentive to dampen unproductive, negative emotions, and engage more and more positive emotions. As the leader, you set the ceiling for the experience of positivity at work. In the end, understanding positivity at work is about understanding how to frame situations in a positive light. Remember, any issue or situation can be framed from a positive perspective or a negative perspective. It's a choice. Too often, people make this choice in their subconscious instead of actively thinking about the choice, but it is a choice.
Let's consider an example. Imagine you're the leader of a 10-person team of engineers who support the sales team for a very technical line of industrial machinery. One of your top customers calls to complain. Apparently, one of your products has malfunctioned, causing their entire manufacturing process to shut down. This customer is huge, representing over 20% of your company's revenue. You know this is a very important issue to address. You also suspect that the work of one or two members of your team may be responsible for the machine breaking down.
What do you do? You could quickly call the team together and announce, "Okay, our largest customer just called. "Our product has not only failed to work properly, "but it's caused their whole operation to stop. "If I find out that one of you is somehow responsible, "heads are gonna roll. "That's later. Right now, I need you "to cancel your weekend plans because all of you "will be working straight through Saturday "and Sunday to fix this mess. "If we lose this customer, it might just cost us jobs. "I'll see you at 8AM Saturday morning.
"If you're not there, don't bother to show up on Monday." That approach to this situation is basically honest and accurate, but it's also quite negative, and ultimately unproductive. In contrast, I want you to realize that the very same situation can be addressed positively. You could call the team together and announce, "Team, our largest customer just called. "One of the products isn't working, "and it's shut down their operation. "I don't care why it happened. "We'll of course figure that out later "and take steps to prevent this type of error in the future.
"For now, the focus is on making this customer happy. "We have a huge opportunity here. "Fixing this mistake correctly and quickly "could build some great good will. "If we make things right with this customer, "we could secure them as a key customer for years to come, "but I need your help to make this happen. "Time is of the essence, "so I want to ask you to work with me this weekend "and try to fix the problem. "I'll be here at 8AM Saturday "with coffee and doughnuts, waiting on you guys. "Are you up for the challenge?" This approach to framing the situation on average will be met with much stronger acceptance.
The tone is positive and hopeful, not angry and accusatory. Language is among the most powerful tools you have available in your leadership toolkit. Start assessing the conversations you see at work, and notice how often we allow the negative frame to dominate. Then make the conscious choice to engage these conversations from the glass-half-full perspective. Your team will be more productive, and long term, others will start to follow your lead by making their communication increasingly positive.
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- Assessing employee engagement
- Providing autonomy
- Building a transparent culture
- Modeling desired behavior
- Using monetary and nonmonetary motivators
- Fostering accountability
- Developing career paths for employees<br><br>
- The PMI Registered Education Provider logo is a registered mark of the Project Management Institute, Inc.