It’s very easy to slip into a path of negativity in your leadership. It’s a basic tenet of people to slide into negative outlooks and behaviors unless acted on from some outside agent, or disciplined from within.
In the current state of our world, with Covid-19 lock-downs and their resulting economic impact, racial police brutality that leads to riots, and people on social media harassing others in a self-appointed social justice warrior role, it’s easier than ever to become more negative, or at least stay there longer.
Negativity is always waiting to manifest within ourselves. When we allow more negative to taint our effectiveness, we lessen our impact to others and our own outlook.
It’s a drain on any organization that will always have diminishing returns. And yet it’s completely avoidable if we take some proactive measures. Here are & ways to lead positively by adopting habits that crowd out negativity from impacting you.
Lead With A Clear, Positive Vision. A vision centered around despair and “what-ifs” will not encourage others to grind out towards a clouded goal. Nor will a goal that is unclear, or unspecified. Having a big, audacious vision for what lies ahead and making sure it’s clear (and clearly communicated) to all will get the teams eyes on a common goal.
Assume Positive Intent. Most of the time leaders assuming the worst in their people will only erode that employee’s trust. Just like most worrying is about things that never end up occurring, assumptions of ill-will are usually unfounded. Having an outlook of positive intent, such as what Indra Nooyi, former CEO of PepsiCo has adopted in her life and leadership, can be the single best approach to changing your leadership impact.
Look For What’s Working. Plans fail. Machines break. Employees Struggle. Systems break down. A lot can take away your attitude, such as worrying about what you don’t have instead of using what you already have at your disposal. Being content in what is working and available leads to a leveraging that is more beneficial and productive. Celebrating what’s working and succeeding are good places to start.
Communicate Incessantly. Negativity breeds faster, so it must be diluted with communication that’s upbeat and assuring. Positive messaging is a change in habits, but ultimately becomes easier over time. What needs to be communicated is vision, work culture, goals, successes and recognition of what is working. Everything on this list won’t be impactful if not communicated to everyone on your team. Inoculate your people with the right type of communication.
Keep Away From Negative Influences/Influencers. This is probably more internal than external. Any leader needs to be informed of the world around them. To be blissfully ignorant of socio-economic, market, political and physical forces is a naive approach to your role. However, consuming more negative input than positive messages will create hopelessness, distrust and divisiveness in your own being. Just as feeding on junk food is harmful to your body, it’s difficult to lead effective and visionary change by gorging on influences and people that make your outlook anemic.
Be A Positive Impact In Your World. Having a determination that you will enable others to make a tremendously bright impact on your sphere of influence will start your team in a productive direction. Coupled with communicating vision, focusing on how to make lives better through your work culture, services, products or just from interacting with you and your people can be a huge intangible difference in other’s lives. Look at how you can make everyone’s (or as many as humanly possible) brighter by how you conduct your affairs and those of your organization.
Seek Opportunity In Every Situation. No matter how challenging the times, there is always opportunity. Some of our best medical advances have unfortunately come during periods of war. We have seen numbers of companies pivot during this Covid-19 pandemic – such as distilleries making sanitizer and game companies making face masks – because they saw opportunities to meet a need for the common good.
We can wait for circumstances to be better, and they most likely will. However, good and bad times have always and will always ebb and flow.
Making your leadership one of positivity, one that is beneficial and not consumed by the world’s events, will empower you to help others lift their heads and efforts above the challenges of the day.
It starts with an effort to block the despair and cynicism both from within yourself and from the outside.
There is a saying that I am particularly fond of:
“Your only competition is yourself.”
And there is another saying as well:
“You’re only as good as your last performance.”
By combining these two sayings, it should give us each a sense of the one thing we need to accomplish every day.
Are You Getting Better?
We should all ask not just ourselves, but those who we allow to provide straight honest feedback, to answer if we indeed truly getting better. Some questions to ponder:
- Am I becoming more trustworthy among those I work and know?
- Do I find new ways to learn and challenge myself to grow?
- Is my reputation getting better?
- Have I taken care of those things I’m scared of others finding out?
- Did I overcome excuses today?
- Am I working towards peak health, thinking and attitudes?
- Did I create more happiness for others today?
- Am I allowing others to be more important than myself?
Questions like these to ourselves and our accountability partners will peel away the surface performance and attitudes and challenge ourselves to go deeper to be a truly better human above all else.
So, how are you getting better today?
An employee is terminated but when their colleagues go to human resources to shed light on leadership improprieties, they are informed that there were other issues at hand and quickly dismissed.
A new president takes the helm at the company, and spends the first year making significant impact, plenty of allies and great results. Then in the second year, they abuse their influence, trust and power in such a way that those who hear of the change in the leader’s stripes are under their spell and ignore the concerns, or at least minimize them.
Executive leadership hear about the temperament of a particular leader in their organization, but tell everyone that’s just how that person is and it’s not a big deal. To the executives the leader gets great results but to the employees in the know, the leader is abusive and plays favorites.
These three scenarios all have the same core problem – the leaders in the organization have failed to create a working measure of accountability for their leaders.
It’s interesting to see how managers give reviews to their employees but the reverse is not true. In many organizations, the leader’s accountability is to metrics, sales and stock price, and not to behaviors and employee well-being.
A systematic change to how the organization ensures leadership accountability, adopted and implemented fairly from the top leadership, will help transform the leadership culture in any workplace. Here are some foundational steps in which to accomplish true leadership accountability in your company.
- Publicly commit to change. Organizations should speak with all leaders and all employees to inform the change to culture and the overall goal of fair standards of accountability to leaders as well. You will need to set clear expectations to your leaders beforehand and release those who don’t by in immediately. By proclaiming this to the entire organization, you are also setting yourself up to be held to this initiative form employees. It’s the necessary start but scary for all involved.
- Ensure proper processes for concerns. Create your process for voicing concerns – whether from employees, poor leadership performance, or observations of behavior. Refine as you go but ensure everyone knows who and how to properly question leadership, whether it’s direct talk to the leader themselves without repercussions or bullying, or to their leader or HR. Creating the processes to foster this culture change will strengthen the success of accountability.
- Investigate ALL concerns. A company that truly values the voice of it’s employees will check into any and every concerns raised by them, not matter how insignificant. It’s more than just saying you value them by celebrating their work anniversary or pointing to your core values, it’s when sensitive situations arise that the organization and leaders truly tell the employees how they value them. Do not dismiss any concern, even from the supposedly poorest performer or employee that is a “troublemaker”. Favoritism and assumptions in any form is not a true pathway to true accountability.
- Act like the issue actually occurred. While the principle of “innocent until proven guilty” should be held throughout all items, what does that mean for the claimant of an infraction of leadership? By excusing a claim away, you are basically stating that the person raising the question is guilty of fabrication, which is a guilty charge. All parties should be held to the same standard, and both be innocent until proven otherwise. By acting on the claim itself you consider the innocence of all involved until there are enough empirical facts to render a fair decision.
- Take the personalities out of the equation. As mentioned before, sometimes organizations dismiss employee concerns because of an employee that’s a chronic complainer or stirs the pot. And those companies often ignore the bullying and lies of a leader because they’re a dynamic public figure, great personality, and/or get great results. Personalities will lead to a subjectiveness that taints an objective look into the concern being brought forth. Remove the person and concentrate on the issue to ensure fair accountability.
- Check your biases at the door. The unconscious – and conscious, deliberate – biases that many individuals have can marginalize the most legitimate concern before it starts. It can unconscioulsy let a leader off the hook and denigrate the culture as well as those who are being silenced. Biases are not limited to race, gender and culture, they can be held to appearance, economic status and even personalities. Again, it’s another aspect to taking personalities out of the equation, but by looking omre at the internal biases of those are responsible for keeping accountability fair.
- Don’t take a leader’s word just because they are a leader. Studies suggest that 60 to 96 percent of people lie, and the numbers suggest that leaders do it more than employees. So given that the majority of leaders have empirically told a lie, why should a company give carte blanche to a leader to take their word at face value? Until proven out, any allegation towards any leader should not be excused away because of their position. In fact, it should be more closely scrutinized and proven out.
- Consistency proves out your true accountability. Employees align with culture based on the observations of their leaders. When leaders aren’t open to and held accountable, employees disengage, but when leaders are held to that same standard as others, employees take quick notice and will slowly start to align when they see consistency and fairness and leadership behavior align as well.
Holding leaders truly and consistently accountable is probably the most difficult part of culture that any organization will ever undertake. A company that exalts culture, values and mission to be more important than any one individual who doesn’t truly align with them will be a mindset that allows this change to properly manifest.
Pledge as a leader to allow yourself, and your leadership team, to be subject to checks and balances that will create better engagement and ultimately better results in the performance of the entire team.