Why Great Leaders are Positive In Adverse Situations

The current business world makes it hard to be optimistic. I don’t know if it’s the amount of negative information we receive, the speed in which judgments are cast, the sheer amount of people doing work they hate, or some combination of the three. 

I’ve struggled to maintain optimism during difficult times especially when a team is underperforming, and I know from coaching professionals, it’s a common challenge for many. 

Take Chris, a director in a medium-size consulting company, for example. He was promoted to lead and turn around an underperforming division. He worked long hours, built strong relationships with his team members, and had shifted the strategy to align with the current environment. With all that work behind him, the second half of the year was only slightly better than the first half. His boss was putting pressure on him to drive better results. Chris was at his breaking point, and he knew his team was starting to take notice.  

Instead of making a rash decision, we addressed his negative self-talk and assumptions that he wasn’t good enough for the job. We channeled his thinking towards what he and his team could control, rather than spiraling down the doubt rabbit-hole.

I shared a recent study from Boston University School of Medicine which linked optimism and prolonged life. Chris was shocked to find out that men and women who demonstrate optimism had, on average, an 11 to 15 percent longer lifespan and 50-70 percent greater odds of reaching the age of 85, compared to the least optimistic people. 

As he was starting to turn the corner about his choice to remain optimistic, I shared one of my favorite quotes from Jon Gordon the author of The Power of Positive Leadership

“Being positive won’t guarantee you’ll succeed. But being negative will guarantee you won’t.”

He made up his mind and chose optimism. Here are some of the strategies Chris and I have implemented to help you remain optimistic as well:  

Use the Rule of 3 Positives

Choosing to be optimistic requires a daily discipline of looking for positives each and every day. For example, yesterday was a challenging day for me. Not only did I receive some bad news on the home front, but we lost a deal, and another got delayed. Needless to say, I left work a little beat down. But instead of allowing the negative energy to take hold, I used the Rule of 3 Positives.

The rule is simple. Each day, write down three positive things you did or experienced. Here is my actual list of Rule of 3 Positives from yesterday:

  1. I chose to come home early to support my family instead of going to a work event I wanted to go to
  2. I shared an idea with my barber to help grow her struggling business
  3. I helped a coaching client work through a difficult problem with a team member

These were all choices I made in my day that were positive. While they aren’t massive accomplishments, they were small and positive. By celebrating and reminding myself of them, I was able to reject the negativity of the day and focus on the positive. Chris has adopted the Rule of 3 Positives as well and makes a practice during his commute home to list three things he chose to do that were positive. The trick Chris and I have experienced is, if you can’t write down three things you did that were positive, you have work to do the next day!

Promote and encourage what creates positive energy with your team  

While work can and absolutely should be a place that helps create positive energy for people, it is easy to lose sight during difficult times. Find ways to promote other areas of life that typically create positive energy like healthy eating, physical fitness, faith, and building quality personal relationships. 

Chris has rededicated himself to his health journey by eating better and going to the gym on a regular basis. His confidence has skyrocketed and the working out has helped him alleviate the stress and pressure of the job.

Remove people that cause negativity

Regardless of how well a team member performs, an individual’s value must also be measured by the positivity they bring to the team. There’s a famous saying, “Don’t let one bad apple spoil the bunch.” Each person plays a part in the ongoing development of a team’s culture. One drop of negativity will spread like wildfire.

Chris ended up finding a different job in the company for a member of his team that was constantly talking about the seeming lack of results the team was experiencing. After their removal, the team started focusing on the small wins they were making, which catapulted them to more wins.

Fast forward a year, and Chris and his team are thriving. Being relentlessly positive in the face of challenges is a true competitive advantage. Stay positive and believe good things will happen.

What lessons did I miss?

What are some other ways you remain positive for yourself or your team?

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About the Author: John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft, a leadership development company that exists to turn managers into leaders and create healthier places to work. He is currently booking events and speaking engagements for 2020. John was named one of LinkedIn’s 2017 Top Voices in Management & Workplace and was awarded the 2017 Readership Award by Training Industry.com. John is also the host of the “Follow My Lead” Podcast, a show that transfers stories and best practices from today’s leaders to the leaders of tomorrow. You follow him on Instagram @johngeades.  

4 Simple Habits All Great Leaders Master

Have you ever wondered what separates the good leaders from the great? It’s not raw, natural talent or innate skill. No, it’s something more impactful and difficult to master.

Making the jump from a good leader to a great one begins with a dedication to changing some basic habits. Great leaders like Howard Schultz, Jay Wright, Ron Schaich, Ben Franklin, Oprah and others commonly identify simple habits that have led to their biggest leaps forward. My friend Amber Selking defined a habit as, “Something you do so often, it becomes the very essence of your being.” My favorite example of a habit is looking at your phone in the morning. For most, this is done without a second thought.

If you want to be more like these great leaders, focus on ensuring you have the following simple habits in place.

1. Cultivate a positive morning routine.

Benjamin Franklin had the morning routine figured out to a tee. He called the time from 5 a.m.-7 a.m. “powerful goodness.” This time was spent ordering the priorities of the day, as well as writing, reading, and praying. Additionally, Franklin always took the opportunity to answer one question, “What good will I do today?”

Your morning routine is instrumental in how successful a day you will have. Setting aside this time will directly impact your leadership abilities. While this routine varies from person to person, it can include exercising, praying, meditating, writing, reading, or prioritizing the most important work for you and your team.

Too often, people let social media, email, or work shape their demeanor. This has a direct effect on how you lead your team. A leader is put in a reactive and problem-solving mode, which causes one to act counterintuitively.

Most important, be consistent in what time you get up and what you do each morning.

2. Have an optimistic attitude.

Great leaders know that life and leadership don’t fall in a straight line. There is a combination of highs and lows, often interspersed with scattered things out of their control. That being said, the best leaders choose not to be powerless against the unexpected. Alan Stein Jr. told me on the Follow My Lead Podcast, “The one thing you have control over every day is your attitude and your effort.”

Oprah Winfrey credits her immense success as a talk show host, actress, producer, and philanthropist to one thing: a positive attitude. Winfrey envisioned a life where her biggest hopes and dreams were a reality. She made sure to do so with unwavering optimism, and we all know where that took her.

Having a sunny outlook on life every day is a choice. Implementing a sunnier disposition will quickly become habitual when you realize the weight it carries.

So, don’t let events or circumstances dictate your attitude.

3. Set team goals and write them down.

If you don’t set goals for your life, business, team, etc., the results will almost certainly be disappointing. As the famous Zig Ziglar quote goes, “If you aim at nothing, you will probably hit it every time.”

Dr. Gail Matthews, a psychology professor at Dominican University in California, studied the art and science of goal setting. In researching 267 people from different backgrounds and professions, she found the achievement of goals is 42 percent more likely when you write them down on a regular basis.

Ron Shaich, CEO and founder of Panera Bread, makes time each Christmas to write down his yearly goals. “I write down initiatives for myself, my family, my health, my work, and my God — all the things that I think matter. I write where I’m trying to get to and how I’m going to get there”, he says. Shaich estimates he keeps about 75 percent of his commitments as a result of completing his yearly ritual.

While most leaders have goals for themselves, it can’t be assumed they have been set for their team. It is crucial to the success of your business that you establish what you want to achieve with your team. Then write them down and communicate about them on a regular basis.

4. Model the definition of leadership.

I define leadership as someone’s whose actions inspire, empower, and serve others to produce an improved state over an extended period of time. But simply knowing this definition isn’t enough for the most influential leaders — the real difference lies in living it out.

I have yet to encounter a strong leader who isn’t keenly aware of how important their actions are, as far as setting an example to the people they lead. Many are borderline fanatical about the decisions they make and the positions they put themselves in.

Sheila Johnson, co-founder of BET network, leads by example through her passion. She says, “I want every one of my employees to look at me with dignity and respect. I want to be someone they are proud to work for.”

With today’s busy and noisy world, what matters more than your words are your actions. Be intentional every single day and have a relentless focus on being a role model of leadership for your people.

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About the Author John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft, a full-service organizational health company which exists to turn managers into leaders and create healthier places to work. John was named one of LinkedIn’s 2017 Top Voices in Management & Workplace and was awarded the 2017 Readership Award by Training Industry.com. John is also the host of the “Follow My Lead” Podcast, a show that transfers stories and best practices from today’s leaders to the leaders of tomorrow. He is also the author of FML: Standing Out and Being a Leader and the upcoming book “The Welder Leader.” You follow him on instagram @johngeades.

The Critical Thing Great Leaders Bring to Work

It didn’t take long to realize that morale was at 3 on a 1-10 scale. The team had been through a lot in a short period of time; poor business performance, selfish leadership, and unrealistic expectations. My first reaction was to jump right in and try to start solving problems, but I knew from my mentors that solving problems was only part of the equation. What everyone needed was hope and confidence about the future.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but that was the exact definition of optimism. Just this week, on Snapchat, I heard Gary Vaynerchuk say in a quick 10-second snap:

“The world lacks optimism, it’s in short supply. So if you find it, latch onto it. If you have it, much love.”

Optimism is what stops those with great talent from reaching their full potential. It’s a leaders responsibility to bring optimism to the workplace EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. If you do, these are the things that will happen:

People Will be Drawn To You

Optimism is like cookies coming out of the oven – you will draw people to you. Being surrounded by people with a deep interest in what you are doing and the desire to be around you is an enormous part of successfully leading a team to higher levels of performance.

 People Will Follow You

You can’t be a leader without people following you. Optimism provides a foundation to build great relationships with your team so they are willing to follow. Once someone is willing to follow, you have a chance to win on an ongoing basis. You probably have amazing leader-employee relationships but if you want a short reminder check out thisvideo.

 People Will Come to You in Times of Need

A mentor of mine once told me “everybody is going through something.” I don’t care how perfect someone else’s life looks on the outside, they are battling something. That means when people need to talk about their problems and challenges, the last place they want to go to is someone who has a negative outlook. Your optimistic outlook will allow you to help others during difficult times.

People Will Emulate You

Have you ever seen a small child watch their parents then immediately emulate them? This works for both positive and negative behaviors, and as parents it’s our job to set the example for our family. Obviously, your people aren’t children, but just like a family, your example sets a certain level of expectation. Give everyone a good example to follow.

People Will Spread Your Optimism 

Your team will pass their new found optimism on to new hires, interns, and their family. Much like the power of social media you begin reaching a lot more people than you could ever imagine.

I am under no dissolution that bringing optimism to the workplace everyday is easy. In many ways, it might be the hardest thing any leader does because there are so much negativity and challenges in the world. That being said, I picked up a few ways to be an optimistic communicator from Jon Gordon, best selling author and speaker:

  1. Shout Praise, Whisper Criticism
  2. Encourage
  3. Smile More
  4. Don’t Complain
  5. Welcome Feedback

It’s my hope that by reading this, I will pass my own optimism on to you, at least for the day. The challenge will be evaluating how optimistic you are in your professional and personal life and committing to putting these into practice.

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