Sometimes it can feel like the world is against you. Everything you say or do is misconstrued or met with indifference. You're surrounded by naysayers and it seems as if every idea you put across is met with a disdainful look.
However even when things don’t go your way, it’s important to raise your gaze past the small irritations and look outwards to see what’s coming next.
Otherwise you can find yourself caught in a spiral of negativity and the people around you will begin to feel negative too. Their ideas will stop flowing for fear of being shot down in flames. And when people are fearful at work, the last thing on their minds is to be creative.
However, sometimes when we try to be positive in a difficult situation it can seem as if you’re putting on an act. It feels wrong to be grinning from ear to ear when inside we’re feeling hurt and angry. And for some the very phrase ‘positive thinking’ conjures up an image of a perma-tanned motivational speaker punching the air and shouting, ‘You can do this, people!’ into a microphone.
Many studies have shown that being happy and optimistic all the time is detrimental to our mental health. After all you’re only human, and that means your emotions can swing from utter joy to abject sadness in the blink of an eye. The pleasure and pain need to co-exist. And when you imagine the worst possible scenario it’s simply our survival instincts kicking in to warn you of a bumpy ride ahead!
But what if your responsibilites go further than just your own frame of mind? If you're a leader how do you continually encourage and embrace the positive atmosphere in your team, while still remaining true to yourself, even on your very worst days?
Authentic leaders must use positive thinking to encourage creativity. Everyone has ideas, and it’s important that everyone’s voice is heard. But how do we create a positive environment in which people feel they can put forward ideas without fear of failure or being judged?
Sometimes you just need to turn to the experts if you’re looking to instil a positive atmosphere in your team – and that’s your team members themselves. Often a leader can do nothing more effective than opening the floor to others.
Why not stage regular Innovation Kitchens, where people are encouraged to show up with their most outlandish ideas on how to tackle old issues, and see just where that might lead? Over breakfast and coffee, let people have the floor and let their imaginations (and collaborations) run wild. Only one rule: it’s a judgement-free zone.
It’s not easy to sustain a positive atmosphere in a team that’s strictly hierarchical. People don’t feel free to share ideas, to try new avenues or to raise concerns if the leader is all-powerful and can shut them down at any given moment. So, don’t be that leader.
Be open, both in your heart and your mind, and recognise that the sum of your team can be greater than its parts, if you only let it be. It’s not always your status as the leader that needs to be given its place – often the focus needs to be on promoting team relationships, finding new solutions or recognising the expertise on other members of the team.
There’s no one way to lead. There’s no ‘right’ way to lead. Leaders can be empathetic, introverted, visionaries, analytical, hands on, hands off, humble, centre-stagers, reluctant leaders, natural-born leaders or any other type of leader you care to mention. What you must be - in order to maintain the trust of the team and perpetuate positivity - is yourself. If you’re putting on a front, know that most people will be able to see right through it at some point, because acting is an unsustainable course of action.
On the other hand, showing up as genuine, fallible, human and part of the team will create something very special. So find your own way forward as a leader, and your positivity and good intentions will shine through.