Jaime Hunt is vice president and chief communications and marketing officer for Miami University of Ohio.
Many, if not all of us, have experience working with toxic people. Sometimes those toxic colleagues are so influential to the culture of an organization that the entire organization becomes a toxic environment. In both dealing with a toxic individual or working in a toxic environment, it can be a challenge to remain positive and to keep a team focused. As leaders, we have a responsibility to create an environment that allows our employees to be their best selves. Vision, courage and problem-solving skills are essential, but I’ve found that positivity is a multiplier. It can create enthusiasm, enhance motivation and smooth the path for change.
Here are four tips for being a more positive leader.
Set The Tone
As leaders, we have the power to set the tone for our teams. Our moods and behaviors tell our staff what is appropriate and acceptable in the workplace. While it is easy to get drawn into drama, leaders should work to actively destroy negative energy. When others complain, model encouraging behavior both in what you say and in what you do. Keep your body language loose and your tone of voice even. Optimism can be infectious. Let your behavior reflect what you want your team to emulate.
Bring More Voices To The Table
Good ideas can come from anywhere. Creativity, innovation and ingenuity do not only come from the top. Vice presidents and directors ascend to their roles in many ways — having a lofty title doesn’t automatically mean that a person is forward-thinking or a change agent. Trailblazers can exist throughout your organization. Frontline workers interact with clients or patrons every day and may have their fingers more firmly on the pulse of your audiences. Your social media team has daily interactions with both your biggest fans and your biggest detractors. They have insights that can be incredibly valuable to your organization. Bring more people into the fold when ideating, and open yourself up to be challenged. Giving others a voice and an opportunity to challenge ideas can make your work stronger.
Notice People Beyond Their Roles
I will never forget an experience I had while interviewing for a job early in my career. During a one-to-one with the head of the organization, he asked me about my hobbies. I shared that I was training my dog to visit nursing homes. I landed the gig and started six weeks later. In my first meeting with him after I started, he asked how my pup was transitioning to a new home and wondered whether I had found a place to resume his training. The fact that he remembered this small detail made me feel like I was seen as a whole person, not just a worker who wrote press releases and pitched op-eds. Feeling valued made me a better team member and helped me push through challenges and obstacles. All leaders have the power to do the same thing for their team members. People want to follow leaders who care — but be authentic. Your employees likely know when you are insincere; they should know that you genuinely care.
Let Your People Shine
When you are a leader, you often get praised for the work your team does. While you may have set the vision for your organization and provided the resources and guidance for the team to accomplish goals, never take full credit. The people who work for you deserve to have their talents recognized and to have their commitment to excellence appreciated. Your staff doesn’t exist solely to make you look good, and you’ll give up nothing by acknowledging their hard work when you receive praise.
The old cliché that posits that attitude is everything exists for a reason. If positivity doesn’t come naturally, work to hone the skill like you would any other. When you began your career, you likely had to work to gain skill sets that helped you grow. Make a choice to be more positive and find inspiration to help keep you motivated. You may soon find that your attitude shift changes your outlook — and inspires those around you to be their best selves.