A positive outlook can be one of the key factors in leadership effectiveness. It can help you create a thriving and enthusiastic organizational culture.
Let's start with this question: Where do people love to work? According to Glassdoor's Employees' Choice Awards: Best Small and Medium Companies to Work For, people love to go to work in companies that provide outstanding work environments and company cultures. These are companies where the CEOs generally receive high ratings. According to the survey, it's not just the tangible benefits such as compensation or career opportunities that count. Other workplace attributes such as culture and values, senior management and work-life balance make a difference in whether or not people love to come to work.
Does your company fall in the category of a great place to work? If not, how can you hack your culture to make it a positive work environment where people might want to spend 40 hours or more of their week? One thing you could do is to have a positive outlook—that is, consider incorporating positivity in your leadership approach. You may also want to think about encouraging positivity within all your managers as well.
These three ideas could help you bring a positive outlook in your leadership style:
Cultivate an Appreciative Approach
With all the pressure and daily hassles of running a business or a department in these hectic times, it can be easy to focus on what people may be doing wrong. Consider changing your focus to catch people doing things right. Becoming known as a talent hunter—someone who enters a room looking for what's right rather than looking to fix what's wrong—may help cultivate an air of appreciation in your business. You may want to encourage your managers to adopt an appreciative approach for people's efforts as well.
Consider making a point of expressing your gratitude to employees for their work on a regular basis. The Workforce Institute at Kronos released a 2015 survey showing the power of a simple "thank you." Feeling appreciated boosts people's engagement levels. It may also help with retention. When asked what gives them a high sense of satisfaction at work, those surveyed said receiving a "thank you" from their direct manager ranked high. It was more important than public recognition, even if the recognition includes tangible rewards such as a gift card. What's more, a private, one-on-one comment is more appreciated than receiving recognition with others present or copied on a group email. Taking this finding into account, if you want to honor an employee by letting everyone know, consider delivering your praise privately first, and then announcing it to others.
Establish an Emotional Connection With Your Staff
An emotional connection can be a pipeline between you and the people who work for you. It's something that's intangible but can be strong. It's about capturing not only people's minds, but their hearts. Ultimately, it's about paying attention to how you make people feel. It all boils down to loving your employees.
"Love" is not something that's often addressed when analyzing organizational behavior. But a longitudinal study spanning over 25 years and published in 2014 by The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and the George Mason University School of Business shows the positive influence that a culture of "companionate love" has on employees and clients alike. Companionate love is characterized by warmth, feelings of affection, compassion and caring for others. The study reveals that a culture of companionate love at work results in employees experiencing higher levels of satisfaction and teamwork. These workplaces also report having less absenteeism and a lower level of employee emotional exhaustion or burnout.
The initial study focused on the healthcare industry, but the researchers later extended their study to include workplaces where companionate love may not be such an obvious fit. They analyzed employees in different industries, such as engineering, financial services, real estate and utilities among others, and found similar results: Employees experiencing companionate love were more satisfied at work, more committed to the company and were more personally accountable.
Loving your employees, and creating a workplace that encourages employees to care for each other, may be a move you can take to make your company a great place to work.
Maintain an Optimistic and Positive Outlook
Optimism and positivity are key aspects of effective leadership. Just think for a moment. Who would you rather follow: A leader who shows up with apprehension and negativity about the future, or one who has a positive and optimistic attitude about the future? As the late leadership scholar Warren Bennis put it, "Every exemplary leader that I have met has what seems to be an unwarranted degree of optimism—and that helps generate the energy and commitment necessary to achieve results."
Good leaders can shine a light in dark corners. They can help people see where they're going and why they're going there. They can help their employees understand the meaning behind what they do. As such, they can be seen as purveyors of hope and enthusiasm in the workplace, and can help people see that what they do matters, and that tomorrow can be better than today.
Good leaders can also promote positive emotions in their teams. Barbara Fredrickson, professor of psychology at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, pioneered the Broaden-and-Build theory of positive emotions, which shows that positive emotions, such as enjoyment, happiness, joy, gratitude and inspiration, broaden our awareness and lead us to more exploratory or novel thoughts and actions. According to the research, the positive emotions we experience affect us not only in the moment—they may also broaden our thoughts and behaviors so that we could become more flexible and approach our work more creatively. It could lead us to be more open to opportunities and more receptive to new ideas. Ultimately, positive emotions can bring out the best in us.
Positive emotions can have a powerful effect on team behavior. Maintaining a positive attitude as a leader may help you create a good place to work and increase productivity.
Taken together, these simple strategies of appreciation, optimism, positivity and, yes, love could have a significant, positive impact on a company's culture.
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