What kind of leader are you? No matter what your job title says, each of us have the ability to consistently bring out the best -- or the worst -- in other people around us. So how does the way you show up, impact others around you?
For most of my career I was so focused on just getting through each day myself, that I only thought about my impact on others when I ran into difficulties. You know people who just wouldn't do what I needed them to do. People who whined or complained about my approach. Or people who just flat out didn't seem to like me (I can't imagine why!).
Running on autopilot I was focused on getting our tasks completed, solving the biggest problems we faced, overcoming obstacles and trying to fix our greatest weaknesses. After all this is what I had been taught "taking care of business" meant.
It was hard work that was rarely appreciated, so eventually I couldn't help but ask: "When it comes to work how can I bring out the best in myself and others?"
"By default we tend to look for the biggest problems, obstacles and weaknesses to solve at work. It's in our nature to take a deficit approach to leadership because we're risk averse," explained Jeremy McCarthy who teaches Positive Leadership at UC Irvine when I interviewed him recently.
Click here for the full interview.
Yet a growing body of research suggests that by taking a more positive approach -- for example focusing on what works in your organization, using and connecting the strengths you have, cultivating a sense of meaning and purpose and being clear on how you can accomplish great things -- you can produce results that exceed normal or expected performance.
"It can be a little nerve wracking to suggest such an approach in organizations where all they seem to care about is profit," acknowledges Jeremy. "But at the end of the day every company is run by human beings who would prefer to work somewhere that was creating meaning in people's lives and had happy employees who were proud of the work they were doing."
Here are three tested, practical approaches Jeremy suggests any leader can try without requiring a cent of budget or anyone's permission to get started:
- Don't just focus on positive or the negative - While many of your interactions with others at work will be focused on figuring out the biggest problems people are facing and how to fix them, make the time to also talk about what went well this week, what you can learn from it, how you can do more of it and savor what's being achieved. A balanced approach that appreciates the learning and growth opportunities that come from positive and negative experiences is essential at work. Know which will serve you best in different situations for the results you most want to achieve.
What could you do - starting today to make your workplace more positive?
This article first appeared in Psychology Today.