Use the Power of Positivity to Transform your Workplace

There’s always another road.

Kyle’s new staff person didn’t seem to be learning much, and he couldn’t figure out why. Every day it was the same thing; he’d give Mary some paperwork to complete, she’d enter the data and file it away, but then the next day he’d have to show her how to do it all over again.

Why couldn’t she understand the simple parts? She’d never make it if she couldn’t learn the basics first, Kyle thought. He was ready to give up.

But Mary was cool and Kyle saw she was eager to learn. She was just having such a hard time grasping even the smallest concepts. He was on the verge of having to let her go. He didn’t have time to spend on her every day.

Yet he tried just about everything to avoid that.

He gave her different tasks.

She wasn’t any good at them either.

Both frustrated, they sat down to talk it out. Kyle confronted Mary with her weaknesses. It’s the way he’s always approached evaluations. It was the way his Boss approached him too. He let her know how to get past them so she could move on to the next phase of training.

But Kyle could tell this upset Mary and she was totally blocking him out as he was explaining what she was doing wrong. Her response was, “I just don’t think I’m cut out for this.” Her confidence continued to suffer and others in the office could see it on her face.

Yet, Kyle felt she had something to lend the company as wasn’t ready to give up.

A Changed Approach

After a college buddy suggested that he read a study by Richard E. Boyatzis (Learning Cognitive and Emotional Intelligence Competencies), Kyle snagged a couple of ideas. It showed that nurturing a person’s strengths, aspirations and goals is a more effective method of encouraging learning and growth than focusing primarily on the negatives.

What if he tried that with Mary? Since she was the first one that didn’t “get” what he was trying to teach her, Kyle decided it was worth considering that maybe different things work for different people.

He found another piece of research by Jack AI, Boyatzis RE, Khawaja MS, Passarelli AM, Leckie RL (Visioning in the brain: an MRI study of inspirational coaching and mentoring) which reinforced the notion that focusing on an individual’s weaknesses rather than the positives does not show any change as proven by brain scans.

“My whole approach is wrong for Mary!” he thought.

Kyle changed the way he was coaching Mary based on this research and started talking more about her future. They took some time to develop a vision board together.

By giving her some new tools, she was able to see her new-found vision, and move past the struggling phase and went on to become one of Kyle’s best.

The Light Bulb Moment

When Mary started grasping concept after concept, it was like a light had been switched on for the first time at work.

According to the research, this method of coaching to accentuate ones strengths vs their weaknesses activates stress-reduction systems and neural circuits in the brain, giving better long-term results.

Mary went from pushing papers to pre-screening clients in a week. Shortly after, she was a team lead. All thanks to Kyle’s persistence, his homework and him looking for a way rather than an excuse.

When coaching/mentoring others, consider the following.

People learn differently. What works for some won’t work for others, so if something isn’t working, don’t be afraid to change it up for a better result. Sometimes people are trying so hard not to make a mistake that they lose focus on the actual task at hand. Tip: Seek progress not perfection!

Talk about positives rather than negatives. Telling people what they did right instead of what they did wrong is more effective at helping people learn and change. People in general respond better to positive reinforcement than negative reinforcement. Tip: more carrot and less stick!

Help folks to envision their futures. Often, someone just needs to see the finish line in order to change the way they think. Once they start envisioning working in the position they’re striving for, they’re more likely to start thinking like someone in that position.

What do you do @ the office to spread positivity?