- Do you feel that company leaders and managers at work appreciate you?
- Do you regularly have the chance to do your best work?
- Do you have clarity on what is expected of you at work?
- Does your manager care about you and provide focus?
Most of us start a job motivated to perform our best, but sometimes working for a poor manager can adversely affect your motivation. Positive leaders help people tap into their innovative spirit to improve performance.
The Brain Power of Negativity
In Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard, 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 analysed 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.
Leaders at all levels need to improve their emotional intelligence and social intelligence skills.
One of the most powerful questions you can ask yourself is “Do I regularly focus on the positive?” What actions can you take today to be a more positive leader? What activities unleash your people’s strengths?