Have you ever experienced a work environment that's very positive? You look forward to being there, in that place, with those people, working on those projects. It's energizing - not in a "cheerleader/rah-rah" manner, but, overall, it just gives you a positive feeling of energy. I've worked in some positive work environments like that and it's made a huge difference in the outcome of the department or company.
It's commonly known that when we feel good, we are more energized, we work better, and we're more creative and productive. If you picture our brains like motors, then feeling good is like lubrication to the brain. Mental efficiency increases, memory becomes more acute, our understanding increases, and we make better decisions.
A key leadership quality is the ability to inspire positive feelings in others, which leads to the outcomes listed above. When you're a leader, how can you generate this for other people?
Your challenge is to find a balance between developing a positive work environment and helping employees to create good working relationships with others, and focusing on your area's (or company's) performance goals.
A study of 62 companies, their CEOs, and their top management teams assessed their enthusiasm, energy, and determination. It also reviewed the amount of conflict the top teams experienced in personality clashes, friction in meetings, and emotional conflicts (i. e. not disagreements about ideas). The study concluded that the more positive the overall moods were of people in the top management levels, the more cooperatively they worked together and the better the company's results at the bottom line. In contrast, the longer a company was run by a management team that did not get along, the poorer the company's results.
Common sense tells us that if employees’ moods are up, they will more likely do what it takes to please customers, thereby increasing sales. Leaders can play a role in this. Since emotions are contagious, leaders have a bigger responsibility for creating and sustaining the moods of their employees. By managing their own moods, leaders can drive the customer service climate at their company and influence employees to do more for customers.
Some research has shown that for every one percent improvement in service climate, there is a two percent increase in revenue. In Primal Leadership (2002), Goleman, Boyatzis, and McKee reported that "how people feel about working at a company can account for 20 to 30 percent of business performance. "
Executive coaching can help leaders create and maintain positive environments and emotions in the midst of challenges. Becoming aware of your own tendencies and learning how to improve them goes a long way toward creating a positive, energizing work environment.
While the environment of the workplace is not the only thing that determines a business’ performance, it can be a sizable piece of it. Research by the Gallup organization and the Hay Group found that 50 to 70 percent of how employees perceive their company's environment reflects the choices of the leaders. They found that the bosses create the conditions that directly affect peoples’ moods at work and their ability to work well together and with customers.
So what can leaders do to elicit sincere positive emotions from employees?
First, they must become aware of their own emotional tendencies, and how their emotions affect others in the workplace.
Second, they can develop a plan to make changes to their own communication style to emit emotions that create an environment that is positively contagious to those around them. This plan needs to be strategic in its intention and attention, without being manipulative of others. Leaders who have managers reporting to them will eventually want to include those managers in developing the same type of plan for themselves.
Third, after several months of making and sustaining changes to their own emotional aura, leaders should expect to enjoy the fruit of their change in the form of happier, more enthusiastic employees who consider their work environments in a very positive light, and who are (mostly consistently) more focused, productive, and cooperative.
A harmonious, energizing work environment is where I want to be. How about you?
What can you start to do this week to begin creating a more positive workplace?
Is there another perspective?
© 2005 Borgeson Consulting, Inc.
Glory Borgeson is a business coach and consultant, and the president of Borgeson Consulting, Inc. She specializes in working with executives in the “honeymoon phase" of a new position (typically the first two years) to coach them to success. Glory is the newly appointed executive's Secret Weapon!. Top athletes have a coach; why not you?
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This article was originally published in The Business Express, Borgeson's free monthly ezine. You may subscribe by clicking here: Ezine