Changing a Negative Mindset and Culture
I’ve learned over the past thirty years that my most effective executive coaching leadership clients know the “why” of what they are passionate in achieving. They get excited in my office telling me inspiring stories of their hopes and struggles. They have a growth versus fixed mindset, and are optimistic and forward thinking.

One of my executive coaching clients shared a personal story with me that he was struggling to convince several of their senior executives on changing their company culture. The data from a recent company engagement survey indicated that far too many employees were not engaged with the mission and vision of the company. It was as if the big egos in the room were locked in a battle of who was right and blaming the others for perceived failures.

I asked him “What happens or behaviors do you observe now and what would you like to see in the future?” He responded, “I tolerate behaviors that don’t contribute to growth”. He confessed experiencing some shame at this self-realization. I suggested that he first work on becoming aware of his own habits and patterns of behavior. He then would model the new desired behavior.

At our next meeting, he reported that he interrupted the pattern of a battle of egos and got everyone’s focused attention. The members of the executive team thought that if he was so passionate about his belief in creating a new culture that they began to pay attention to their own habits and patterns of behavior that were counterproductive to creating a high performance culture.

At an off site Retreat that I facilitated, leaders at all levels of the company co-created a Values Statement that reflected the aspirations of everyone aligned towards a common goal. Values drive commitment. The energy at work was beginning to shift, and people reported being happier and more committed to achieving business results through passionate collaboration.

Emotionally intelligent leaders know that creating a positive workplace culture and climate where emotions are appropriately expressed increases engagement and moves things forward. In order for people to be fully engaged, they need to feel they are following leaders who inspire them emotionally. Engagement is most influenced by how their leaders behave.

The Brain Power of Negativity

In Switch (2010), authors Dan and Chip Heath write about “finding the bright spots” in our work and lives. After extensive research, the two business school professors have documented myriad cases that prove how hard it is to overcome negativity’s pull.

In one study, for example, scientists analyzed 558 words in the English language that denote emotions, and they found that 62% were negative (versus the 38% positive).

Across the board, no matter the situation or domain, we are wired to focus on bad over good.
  • Example A: People who were shown photos of good and bad events spent more time viewing the latter.
  • Example B: When people hear something bad about someone else, they pay more attention to it, reflect on it more, remember it longer and weigh it more when assessing that person. This tendency is called “positive-negative asymmetry.”
  • Example C: A researcher reviewed 17 studies of how people interpret and explain events in their lives, such as how fans interpret sporting events or how students describe their days in a journal. Across multiple domains — work, politics, sports, relationships — people were more likely to spontaneously bring up negative versus positive events.
“Bad is stronger than good,” the Heaths conclude. It’s no wonder performance reviews and feedback are usually aimed at what’s not working. Yet, individuals can override this brain tendency and focus on the positive, at least enough to create successful relationships both at work and home.

John Gottman, a psychologist who studies extensive marital conversations, finds that couples who sustain long-term marriages use language that reflects five times more positive statements than negative ones. In fact, he calls this “the magic ratio” and claims it will accurately predict if a marriage will last.

He urges managers to use a ratio of 5:1 positive statements in conversations with employees. Ask yourself: “What percentage of time do I spend solving problems in relation to the time I spend scaling successes?”

Given the advantages of a solution mindset, it’s surprising that more managers fail to gain a foothold in this managerial style. Remember: You can’t give praise and recognition if you see only the negative and focus on what’s broken.

High Cost of Negativity

1. Ninety percent of doctor visits are stress related, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

2. A study found that negative employees can scare off every customer they speak with—for good (Rath, 2004).

3. At work, too many negative interactions compared to positive interactions can decrease the productivity of a team, according to Barbara Fredrickson’s research at the University of Michigan.

4. Negativity affects the morale, performance, and productivity of our teams.

5. One negative person can create a miserable office environment for everyone else.

6. Robert Cross’s research at the University of Virginia demonstrates that 90 percent of anxiety at work is created by 5 percent of one’s network—the people who sap energy.

7. Negative emotions are associated with decreased life span and longevity.

8. Negative emotions increase the risk of heart attack and stroke.

9. Negativity is associated with greater stress, less energy, and more pain.

10. Negative people have fewer friends.

You can overcome a negative mindset and develop more positivity by working with an executive coach. The investment is well worth the reward: your ability to influence the future, your career and your personal-development capabilities.

Are you working in a company where executive coaches provide leadership development to help leaders put positive leadership into action? Does your organization provide executive coaching for leaders who need to be more positive? Positive leaders tap into their emotional intelligence and social intelligence skills to create a more fulfilling future.

One of the most powerful questions you can ask yourself is “Am I a positive leader who helps individuals and organizations achieve their highest potential, flourish at work, experience elevating energy and achieve levels of effectiveness difficult to attain otherwise?” Emotionally intelligent and socially intelligent organizations provide executive coaching to help leaders develop more positive teams.