I’ve discovered over the 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 confided in me this week 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 wit 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”. 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 consciously interrupted the pattern of a battle of inflated egos and got everyone’s undivided 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.
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.
Finding the Right Feedback Ratio
A wave of research reveals that “soft”-sounding positive management practices — including conversations focused on dreams, strengths and possibilities — motivate people to achieve higher performance levels. In fact, the more positive the message, the better the outcome.
But managers are charged with pointing out what’s not working and solving real problems — a mandate that presents a potentially frustrating leadership dilemma: How can you focus on the positive when continually forced to make corrections?
Richard Boyatzis, PhD, a professor of organizational behavior at the Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, offers a pragmatic solution: “You need the negative focus to survive, but a positive one to thrive. You need both, but in the right ratio.”
Let’s quantify this ratio. Effective leaders should provide 3–5 positive messages for every negative message they deliver. Your communication must skew heavily toward the positive, without sounding incongruent or inauthentic.
If you fail to “accentuate the positive” (to borrow a World War II-era song title), you remain stuck in negative feedback patterns that demotivate your staff.
Barbara L. Frederickson, PhD, a psychologist at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, has found that positive feelings expand our awareness of a wider range of possibilities. Instead of looking at what needs to be fixed, we learn to focus on what’s right and needs to be reinforced. When we emphasize positive deeds, using positive language, achievement builds upon itself.
From a neurological standpoint, positivity activates reward centers in the brain, triggering the release of mood-elevating neurotransmitters like dopamine. As we experience positive feelings, we begin to crave even more of them. This cascade propels us to chip away at the small steps needed to achieve our larger goals and ultimately sets the stage for success.
Indeed, Dr. Frederickson’s psychology research shows that a positive focus bestows greater attentiveness, more flexible problem-solving, enhanced creativity and improved teamwork.
Begin to transform your team by attaching everything you say and do to higher goals and values. Leaders, managers and staff become more positive when they pay attention to the language they use. Rephrase statements in a more positive way, without sacrificing honesty or reality.
If you’re in a management position, everything you say – or don’t say – is magnified, making it even more important to boost your positive/negative ratio. Aim for a least a 3:1 (ideally, a 5:1) ratio of positive to negative statements. When you adopt this approach, others will follow suit.
Show Frequent Appreciation
Instead of seizing on what your people do wrong, start to verbally acknowledge what they’re doing right. Track and recognize progress. Most people perform better when they know they’re appreciated.
This doesn’t mean you should suppress bad news. Instead, learn to deliver it in ways that are less likely to provoke defensiveness. Your execution will improve with practice. You’ll gain respect and better performance outcomes – whether you’re participating in official performance reviews or simply engaging in casual conversations with employees.
Identify and implement action steps on multiple fronts – from the seemingly simple communication efforts to the more complex ones. Changes at the individual level will begin to transform your working environment into a finely oiled machine that values both results and social relationships.
Employing positive leadership practices will allow employees at all levels to flourish at work, sustain energy and reach peak performance. Conversations that highlight people’s strengths, desires and dreams generate emotions and energy that drive us to work harder. The more positive the discussion, the more positive the outcome.
You can develop a more positive mindset by working with a professional 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.
Working with a seasoned executive coach and leadership consultant trained in emotional intelligence and incorporating assessments such as the Bar-On EQ-I, CPI 260 and Denison Culture Survey can help leaders nurture positivity in the workplace. You can become a more positive leader who models emotional intelligence and social intelligence, and who inspires people to become fully engaged with the vision, mission and strategy of your company or law firm.