Blog Categories: positivity
Posted on September 8, 2019
In my experience as a pscycholgoist and leadership Coach, I often hear the challenge successful people have in managing their thoughts around mistakes which they have made. The pointers given in this brief Harvard Business Review article are timeless and quite effective. And, to top it off, these “manage your mind around mistakes” methods are founded in social science research.
Posted on May 7, 2019
Many people agree that our culture is growing more impatient, selfish, disrespectful and ungrateful. Those who haven’t noticed are likely not bothered, and may be contributing to these disturbing tendencies. Not exactly glowing statements on our day and age.
These attitudes and behaviors are also visible in every corner of the working world, as organizations struggle to keep employees engaged, loyal, civil and productive. Employees have no difficulty pinpointing the things that annoy them, while taking little time to reflect on those that please them. A displeased workforce yields low returns on the skills and experience invested in it.
Traditionally, leaders have been responsible for setting the tone and correcting a culture. However, those who portray disturbing behaviors can expect their people to live them out as well. Leaders who can exhibit positive behaviors make a tremendous difference in how their people respond, relate to each other and enjoy their work. Positive behavior depends on a positive mindset, and the cornerstone of it all is gratitude.
Gratitude vs Ingratitude
Gratitude is the appreciation for being a benefactor of something that has made your life better. It’s also a recognition that either you didn’t cause it or deserve it. Gratitude is a thankfulness for what you have, who you are or what opportunities lay before you. It stirs satisfying feelings that are promising, optimistic and calming.
Leaders with gratitude know they’ve been given something from a source bigger than themselves, causing a favorable condition with a lasting effect. This creates a positive mindset that can’t be concealed. That mindset fashions a beneficial outlook, which steers helpful actions. This is the best life enhancing tool for leaders and those they lead.
According to executive coach Christine Comaford in her 2017 Forbes article, Great Leaders have an Attitude of Gratitude – Do You?, a grateful mindset offers leaders a positive emotional reserve that can be tapped when tough situations arise. This is a great tool to thrive under pressure, to be motivated to overcome challenges. Alternatively, ingratitude leads to negative emotions that drag a spirit down. A negative focus doesn’t inspire satisfaction, ideas, solutions or helpful decisions.
Grateful leaders see conditions more positively and experience less stress and fatigue. This allows for a better focus, reason and discernment—in all a healthier leadership. Contrary to this, ungrateful leaders are often burdened with debilitating stress and are more susceptible to burnout. A negative outlook misjudges situations, causing mistakes, missed opportunities and unfortunate responses.
Gratitude often spurs compassion and kindness toward others. This draws employees and forms their loyalty, trust and engagement. People find these qualities difficult to resist. They want to be around a leader who’s grateful, and in turn become more grateful themselves. The opposite effect is true for ungrateful leaders: they are hard to deal with. People avoid them and have no desire to know them. Ingratitude spreads like a disease, causing the culture to grow toxic.
Growing Your Internal Gratitude
No question, gratitude is a perspective that forms your mindset and world view. These act as valuable foundations for a positive, value-based life, both corporately and personally. This benefits the people around you as well. But how can you grow this trait within you? How can the seeds of gratitude get planted in your mind?
A fundamental approach is to take stock of what you’ve been given: what skills you’ve acquired, what opportunities came your way, what successes you’ve enjoyed and what people have made your life better. In other words, deciding to focus on the positive aspects of your life is a primary step to being thankful.
Appreciate the small things you have, the little gains that could have benefitted someone else, but came your way. Everyone’s life can be a celebration of positive things. It’s a choice. Take a look back in time and revisit the journey you’ve been on and see how far you’ve come. Isn’t that worth being thankful? When stress rises think of those things you’re thankful for and foster a better perspective.
Recognizing the relative nature of things can also help develop a spirit of gratitude. You likely know of people who are burdened by things that don’t affect you. There are always tougher stories out there. Being thankful for what you don’t have to deal with can complement the thankfulness for the good things you have.
To keep you on the right track, surround yourself with people that can lift your spirits. These are most likely other grateful people. You’ll be surprised how sufficiently their gratitude wears off on you. An executive coach can put you on the right path and encourage you along the way, helping you to train your brain to lean to the positive side of things.
Building a Culture of Gratitude
Since all leaders mold their culture one way or another, a grateful leader influences their people in ways that demonstrate the benefits of thankfulness. People see the difference and they like it, wanting more of it. Work life becomes more enjoyable and rewarding. Leading by example is the most powerful means to prompt a better environment, as your people take on the culture-enhancing aspects of your gratitude.
Noted author and coach DeLores Pressley puts it simply in Smart Business Magazine, authenticity is the best way to make an impression. Phony gratitude is noticeable. Showing your staff that you’re thankful for them is a significant demonstration of gratitude. People who feel valued return the sentiment.
To solidify this theme, leaders who make it a habit to thank their people build a culture of mutual appreciation and emulation. Find ways to reach out to them and add value with thanks, appreciation, congratulations for accomplishments and helpfulness. Giving them your best, with your time and your skills, tells them you’re grateful for having them on your staff.
Leaders who point to the positives in everyday activities reveal a grateful spirit. Of course, there are negative issues in every organization, and lamenting with grumbling or resentment drags everyone down. However, emphasizing a focus on positive solutions or valued lessons learned draws out thankfulness in everyone. Building on positives enhances the opportunities for more, and it unites people in a common, worthy cause. That’s worth being thankful for, too.
Believing in your leadership abilities and the skills of your people, giving them grace when they err and support when they succeed, crafts a positive and grateful culture that has no limits. Make it your example and your expectation that a positive, thankful mindset is what your organization needs in order to prosper. Certainly no one will object to that.
Posted on August 23, 2017
Resilience, defined by most as the ability to recover from setbacks, adapt well to change, and keep going in the face of adversity, is widely considered now an important behavior to nurture well-being and healing from life’s challenges. This article outlines specific ways one can practice and develop resilience to manage the stresses living a life may bring.
Posted on July 1, 2015
Every wondered “What is the best version of myself?” The answer to this is embedded in this article which outline recent research on ways to make your life happier – or ways to infuse more positive emotion into your life…and enjoy it. Caveat: like much of life, this involves attention, monitoring and practicing new ways of doing things.
Posted on January 5, 2014
The Four P’s of happiness: Purpose, Perspective, People and Play – Read here as to how you can develop a process to move toward a sense of purpose and positivity in work and life.
Posted on January 12, 2013
Research shows that when we can maintain a ratio of 3 (positive emotion) : 1 (negative emotion) in the work place we show up more able to make and maintain productive relationships, have more effective team interactions and more successful client interactions. Maintaining this ratio is challenging given the negative bias of negative emotions on the brain: we are biologically hard wired to pay more attention to negative emotion. Often stated: positive emotion is like “teflon” on the brain and negative emotion more like “velcro” on our brains.
So what to do?
These resources offer brilliant ways to practice increasing positive emotions and thinking to get to the tipping point each day at work of 3:1:
Barbara Fredrickson, Positivity, Three Rivers Press, 2009: This book, now available in paperback, is written by an award winning social scientist. Dr. Fredrickson not only explains her research but gives poignant examples from her own life of how she maintains positivity. The book also lists exercises and methods to practice daily to maintain the 3:1 ratio at work and in life. Also, check out Dr. Fredrickson’s website: www.positivityratio.com to test your positivity ratio each day.
Lynn Johnson, Enjoy LIfe: Healing with Happiness-available on his website and on Amazon. The subtitle of this book is: How to harness positive moods to raise your energy, effectiveness and joy. Dr Johnson gives really practical suggestions to maintain the positivity ratio as well as clear descriptions of relevant social science research.
Barbara Fredrickson and Marcel Losada, “Positive Affect and the Complex Dynamics of Human Flourishing”, American Psychologist, October 2005. For those interested in reading the research data.
Martin Seligman, Flourishing and Authentic Happiness. Dr. Seligman is considered the Father of Positive Psychology. He is a must read if you are interested in studying Positive Psychology and applying the findings to your own life. He posits that in order to flourish in life (and to increase positive emotion) we need: Positive relationships, Engagement or flow, Relationships/social connnections, Meaning or Purpose and Accomplishment in our lives.
Posted on November 30, 2011
Amid economic challenges like those at work today, companies need to transform themselves, adapting to survive and even move ahead. But given the volume of coverage and advisory-oriented information out there, surprisingly little attention is paid to the role of one important person – the CEO. What can this key leader do?
According to a recent article in the McKinsey Quarterly, issued by management consultants McKinsey & Company, the first thing CEOs should do is something I agree with a thousand percent. CEOs must make their organization’s transformation meaningful by making it personal, and they should do that through storytelling.
“People will go to extraordinary lengths for causes they believe in, and a powerful transformation story will create and reinforce their commitment. The ultimate impact of the story depends on the CEO’s willingness to make the transformation personal, to engage others openly, and to spotlight successes as they emerge,” say the experts at McKinsey, and they’re right.
I wrote a speech for a client some time ago that proves the point. This gentleman had been named CEO of a company he had worked for all his life, succeeding a much younger man who had been brought in from the outside but who had passed away quite unexpectedly. While the younger CEO had done a fine job improving efficiency and shareholder returns, he lacked interpersonal skills and internal morale had suffered.
The new CEO, conversely, having been such an old hand within the company, was well-known and even more well-loved. He believed – truly believed – that when people came first, business results would follow. And that message served as the central theme of the speech I wrote for him, as he addressed all employees as his first act as CEO.
He told stories drawn from the people who mentored him as a young man, those who worked alongside him, those who inspired him, and those who came to look up to him over time. He tied these wonderful, warm stories to his vision of where he wanted the company to go. He told the people of the organization he now led that he needed them to believe in each other the way he always believed in them.
And by the time he was finished, every one of those 2,400 people – whether they were in the same building, or watching via video across the company footprint – would have ran through a brick wall for him.
He made the transformation personal through heartfelt stories. There’s no reason that CEOs in any organization, regardless of the challenges they face, can’t achieve the necessary transformations the same way. It can’t be faked. It can’t be half-hearted. But when it’s done well, it can’t be denied. A great speech delivered with conviction can transform people and organizations.
Reference: Hayes, Tim, Jackass in a Hailstorm—Adventures in Leadership Communication, 2010 Transverse Park Productions, LLC. This book is available on Amazon.com. Tim is a Leadership Communication Consultant, Trainer and an associate in the Perla Group – Coaching and Consulting.
Posted on January 23, 2011
“The desire to do something because you find it deeply satisfying and personally challenging inspires the highest levels of creativity, whether it’s in the arts, sciences, or business”
Theresa Amabile Professor, Harvard University
Daniel Pink challenges and inspires in this visually brilliant video as he teaches us how to reconsider what motivates ourselves and ways to breath life into motivating others. Remember these three words: Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose and then take a few minutes to watch this–you will go away enriched and motivated to find your highest levels of creative thought and work. Click on this link to view the short video:
Posted on January 23, 2010
“Let the beauty of what you love, be what you do”
Jahad-ad-din Rumi (Persian poet 1207-1273)
Remember when you were a little kid and you would dream about who you wanted to BE when you grew up? Just the thought of independently communicating your power at a job where you expressed your talents, strengths and interest…felt, well it felt grown up.
Then you grew up. Keeping the enthusiasm, interest and passion alive for your work can be a challenge. Think about how much time we spend at work. Today, with lean teaming and downsizing, people often spend more than 8 hours a day in the workplace. Why not reconnect with that early enthusiasm that drove you to consider expressing your gifts, your sense of contributing to the world and making a difference?
First, identify your strengths and then find ways to use them and develop them at your job. A previous blog I wrote (October, 2009) directs you to a website: www.authentichappiness.com where you can take a short test (the VIA Strengths Survey) that identifies your top 5 strengths. Consider exploring ways to express those strengths at your job. For example, if “Love of Learning” is a strength of yours, then you might organize a “lunch and learn” for co-workers in the workplace.
A second way that can move you toward happier times in the workplace is to notice how often you give into negative thinking at work. Many times this is fueled by unhappy co-workers. Walking away is one answer to this type scenario… as my colleague Dave Ellis says, “That’s why we have feet.” However, it is harder to walk away when those thoughts stay in your own mind. When you notice those “grumpy” thoughts, instead of entertaining them, consider the alternative of letting them go. The more energy you put into these thoughts, the more you’re apt to go down the negative spiral, which brings your energy down, and your thoughts following. Or, to ask yourself, “What do I want to change about this situation?” Then move into productive action and become a part of the answer instead of continuing the complaint. We know we work best when we are in a good mood, which means shifting those thought towards being grateful, appreciative and glad to be working and contributing.
The next time you find yourself feeling unhappy at work—try asking yourself what is right and good about your work? In my work as a professional coach and psychologist, I have the opportunity to talk to people who are successful by societal standards- having prestige and great paying jobs; as well as people who are working in low-income jobs. Both types of people tell me they are sometimes happy at work and sometimes not – what makes a difference is how they practice being happy where they are. They begin to learn more, grow more and then often find more opportunities coming their way as well. Researchers are learning that, regardless of your work, when you practice positive emotion in the workplace, you increase your problem solving capacities, bring more meaning to your workday and build resiliency- all important factors in developing happiness.
Take away: If you want to be happier at work, start with how you are being at work: exercise your strengths and express more positive emotion in your present job. Perhaps you might find that uplifting and empowering feeling you had once when you dreamed of what you would be when you grew up. Wasn’t happiness a part of that dream?
Fredrickson, B.L. & Losada, M.F. (2005). Positive affect and the complex dynamics of human flourishing. American Psychologist, 60(7), 678-686.
Colan, L.J. (2004). Passionate Performance. Dallas, TX: CornerStone Leadership Institute.
Lynn D. Johnson. Happiness: Create the Perfect Job. 2008 – 801.261.1412.
Posted on December 3, 2009
“The hardest arithmetic to master is that which enables us to count our blessings.”
The holiday card that the Perla Group sent out this year states:
During this season of gratitude and celebration,
we acknowledge those who have made our
success possible. In this spirit, we say thank you.
May peace be with you and yours
in this coming year, as well as a prayer for our world.
Yes, indeed it is the season of celebration: Celebrating the past year, our successes and accomplishments, what we cherish and hold dear—what gives meaning to our lives. Not only acknowledging these successes is key, however, taking time to express thanks is most crucial.
Who has not seen the movie, “White Christmas” with Bing Crosby, Rosemary Clooney and (my favorite) Danny Kaye? It is one elaborate production of song and dance and GRATITUDE. The two army buddies take time from their holiday gigs to remember a general who lead them during their wartime experiences and who inspired them to move through life with courage and grace. You may not go through the bother of renting a Vermont Inn to express thanks and gratitude to someone this season, however, think about taking time to formally express thanks to someone who you appreciate.
Research in positive psychology is demonstrating that the habitually grateful among us are happier than those who are not. Now there is a reason to express gratitude each day: you might wind up feeling and being a happier person.
What workplace would not be lighter and happier if colleagues formally expressed thanks for a job well done or for a gesture of kindness? I can still remember a memo that a colleague of mine wrote back in 1984 to my superior commenting on how my service to the hospital unit was a valuable asset to his staff. Completely unsolicited, and yet, it added incredible support and encouragement to my sense of professional esteem. A gesture I treasure and still remember to this day.
Take away: One of the most powerful positive psychology exercises is the Gratitude Letter. This exercise asks you to think of someone, parents, teachers, employers, teammates, etc., who have been kind to you but who never heard you express your gratitude. Write a letter of gratitude, describing in concrete terms why you are grateful. Delivering the letter in person and having the person read the letter in your presence delivers the most powerful experience. Mailing or faxing the letter and following it up with a phone call can be an alternative and as moving. Expressing your gratitude in words and actions not only boosts your own positive emotion but those of the recipient as well. In this process, we not only reinforce their kindness but also positively strengthen the bond of the relationship.
McCullough, M.E., Kilpatrick, S.D., Emmons, R.A. & Larson, D.B. “Gratitude as moral affect.” Psychological Bulletin, 127, 249-266.
Peterson, Christopher. A Primer in Positive Psychology. Oxford University Press, 2006.
Selgman, Martin. Authentic Happiness. Free Press, 2002.