To all the owners and managers out there, how often does an employee come up to you and say things like:
“The systems are all working as they should be.”
“I have the tools and equipment I need to do my job well.”
“It is wonderful to work for a boss that is so appreciative of my work.”
“Wow! These customers are so grateful for the service we are giving.”
“Thank you for providing just the perfect amount of communication.”
Most bosses tell me they never hear those things.
My experience is that negativity grows like a weed in a workplace, but a positive culture needs to be cultivated. The natural tendency is to focus on what’s wrong. The usual assumption is that what is right is obvious and goes unspoken.
It’s not obvious.
During seminars I have never had anyone approach me and say, “The temperature is just right.” I do have people come up to me and say it is “freezing in here” or it is “too hot.” During a break in the seminar I ask the attendees “How many of you are too hot? Too cold? Just right?”
Most of the time the “just right” wins by a large margin. This is not to say the too cold or to hot don’t feel that way. But until the question is asked, what is wrong seems to surface the fastest.
In a workplace it is important to create the methodology to grow the positive while not ignoring the negative. Remember, it takes three positives to one negative to create a positive work environment.
Some tips on cultivating positive:
When talking with an employee, ask them what is going well today. When I ask new employees this, they think I either got on some form of medication or changed it. They’re taken aback. If the person does not have a response, cultivate it. Ask questions. Did everyone come in today who was supposed to be here? Are the systems working? Do you have the needed supplies, product, and tools to do your job today?
Customize the questions to your own work environment. I asked those questions to employees at one hospital and their responses were very positive.
I said, “so what I am hearing is everyone who is supposed to be working today is, the support systems are all working well and you have the tools you need to do your job. It seems like a great place to work today.”
As the staff listened to my explanation, even they look surprised.
A natural follow up question is: “I would like to recognize people doing a good job, do you have suggestions?” After you receive the name or names, ask why. I find people are more appreciative of a specific compliment.
An example: Jonathan says Mike would be a good employee to recognize. I ask why.
Jonathan shares that during a very busy Blue Wahoos game, the concession lines were backed up and Mike jumped into help even though this is not his normal stadium job. I approach Mike, share with him that Jonathan mentioned him and then I share and recognize the specifics. This accomplishes a lot.
Mike appreciates Jonathan, which builds teamwork. Mike’s willingness to jump in to help outside his role is reinforced. I have a positive deposit in building the 3-to-1 positive to negative ratio.
While it is right to start positive, if I stop there, there is a disconnect with staff. So I ask, “are there things you feel can be made better?”
My experience is most of the time the answers are positive. If not, we then have items to address. However, you get a win because the employee feels heard and has input. You can rotate questions and include things like training, communication, etc.
Changing a behavior is hard. The questions can make a leader uncomfortable. Of course leadership is not always about being comfortable. It’s all about turning the culture to what is right. It creates better employee retention, increased customer satisfaction, a more successful business and a positive community impact.
Studer Community Institute offers training and development opportunities for organizations and businesses to improve their culture, performance, and bottom line.