Susannah Brade-Waring, Managing Director and Coach at Aspirin Business Solutions
Following my post on resilience, I’ve had a number of conversations about negativity and its effect on self-confidence, motivation and resilience.
A negative attitude, i.e. one that focusses primarily on all the things that are wrong, is incredibly pervasive. In a sense, it’s like carbon monoxide. Carbon monoxide is invisible, it has no smell and it bonds more easily to our blood cells than oxygen, making it difficult to replace. Even the most resilient of people can succumb over time – or they physically locate themselves to a different area or a different organisation. This creates silos in organisations and the cost of poor communication, to replace lost talent, let alone the missed-opportunity costs, can be enormous.
Negativity has another consequence for organisations – it can create a groundswell of resistance to change. This is, perhaps, insidious. We don’t notice it until we need to change how we do things – by creating greater cost accountability, for example, or more proactive account managers. This is particularly prevalent with long-serving employees who have become accustomed to the ‘way things are done here’ and aren’t aware or ready for the agile business environment that we now compete within. Again the costs can be enormous – both in terms of lost competitive advantage and in changes being forced upon us if we act too late.
How do we turn this around?
- For new recruits, we can try to spot negativity. In my last post, I described ‘priming’ where key words affect how we feel on a subconscious level. This is strongly linked to negativity. Years ago we banned TV programmes like Eastenders and Jeremy Kyle from our home because they feature so many destructive arguments and relationships. McDonald’s ask job candidates to name their role models, and why. It might be interesting to ask them to name their favourite TV programmes and hobbies too. Look for signs of negativity and positivity in their choices and language.
- For existing employees, on a daily basis it’s important to nip negativity in the bud by discussing this with the individual and not tolerating constant grumbling. Occasionally, individuals are unaware that they grumble and just mentioning it can be enough to stop it. However, in my experience, these grumbles are the outward signs of someone who is generally unhappy within their role and who may struggle to keep up with a growing and evolving organisation. If the individual performs their job well, coaching can be highly effective – providing the individual is committed to trying to turn this around.
- Creating a cultural change is larger project. It has to start with the top in creating a strong, cohesive leadership team who are firm and fair, and demonstrate the behaviour they’re looking to create. We need a vision (based around a strategy) to summarise where the organisation are headed, which creates the framework for the change in attitude and behaviour. After all, if we’re not going to be doing anything consistently different as an organisation – why change?
We’ve found a combination of Motivational Maps and Clarity4D personality profiles to be particularly effective, enabling the individuals to understand themselves better and how they appear to others. Whilst the power of others’ opinions can be destructive on Facebook (with popularity measured by ‘Likes’), it can be very powerful in curbing negative behaviour when used with the tangible reports produced by these two tools and coaching.
Here at Aspirin Business Solutions, we help release the potential in leaders, Senior Teams and organisations through our F.A.S.T.E.R. programmes. The starting point is often a Motivational Map with a 30 minute debrief. Worth a conversation?