OF COURSE IT DOES! I say firmly now looking back at the former more sceptical self I used to be. I remember when I was studying my Master’s degree hearing about an approach called Appreciative Inquiry. For those who may not have come across it before, it is an approach to change where you focus on blue sky thinking about the future (Dream) of the organisation and then, working on what is already going well in the business and growing these strengths. I loved the concept, being a naturally positive person myself, but I never imagined it could work in the workplace. I had spent my years before in consulting, working out the problems businesses had and working alongside of them to fix them. I wasn’t necessarily looking for them to dream big about their future, despite always looking at the longer term. The reality is that this is mainly what happens in organisations especially during times of change.
So how did I go from a sceptic of the approach to actually being quite a big ambassador for the whole positive thinking movement and bringing it into the workplace? Well I started on my own personal development journey a few years ago… I started learning more about positive psychology applied at an individual level and all about neuroscience behind it, and then it hit me! Organisations spend most of their time thinking about their problems, they focus on them, they study them, they fix them, and then oops! , another pops up and the cycle repeats. Of course as I started looking more into the different theories around positive psychology I realised one of the reasons this was happening was precisely because the focus was on the problems, so more problems would arise. As a top business man T. Harv Eker mentions, “What you focus on, expands”. It is absolutely astonishing what the mind can do on its own, now imagine a complete collective mindset, which is what an organisation has.
Neuroscience has discovered so many links between what we think and what happens, that it is no surprise that in organisations the collective mindset could be so powerful. I started playing more with the positive aspect of psychology, experimenting, and I discovered that it had an impact in the workplace as well. Getting organisation to think big, have their own affirmations (taken from the Law of Attraction), build more positive workplaces through recognition and a real sense of team spirit creates a massive change in regards to performance, engagement, retention, and culture within an organisation.
However, a fair warning… being positive only works if you truly mean it. If you have always been a negative manager, pointing out all the things that go wrong and everyone’s defects, and all the sudden you come telling everyone they are amazing…people can smell the pile of poo from a huge distance. Neuroscience has proven that too! You must actually hold true integrity to use these types of approaches so they actually have true success in the workplace. To be honest, the best way I’ve seen it done is it goes from the individual, to their team, and like wildfire it spreads throughout the organisation.
So a bit of a story to end this blog: Once upon a time there was a manager, they were the type of manager who enjoyed being successful, they pushed their employees everyday so they would work harder. They believed they were giving constructive feedback when telling their employees about their failures and when they were doing things wrong. They made sure it was timely and would be assertive (or at least they thought it was). One day a new employee started, they were bubbly, friendly and full of ideas! The manager had never faced anyone like this before, at first they were annoyed because they couldn’t seem to control this newbie. One time the newbie had a great idea and pitched it to the manager. The manager said, “We have already tried X and Y, why do you think Z would work?”. The newbie full of enthusiasm responded “What’s the worst that can happened if we try and it doesn’t?”. This led the manager to sit back and reflect, they had never been challenged like this before. After considering the idea, they realised they had nothing to lose, and went for it. As the idea starting evolving and succeeding the manager got wrapped up in excitement! The enthusiasm had started to rob off. Initially the only signs were the fact they were smiling more, and once in a while said hi to staff while looking for the newbie to tell him how things were going. As the newbie talked to other employees, the manager was forced to start talking more to the others, and realised some of them also had ideas, and well, if one worked, would the rest? They started taking time out talking to people on the floor, listening, and realised that while they had so previously focused so much on the problems and issues, they had never stopped to think that maybe the employees could have the answer. All of the sudden, as if like magic (except this took more than 6 months), the manager realised the potential in each one of the employees, instead of saying just about what they were doing right, they started saying thank you and giving feedback about the good things too! The changes gradually were seen, the culture changed, and the company had developed a brand new product that would drive their business to new heights.