positive-attitudeOne thing I’ve learned from interactions with senior executives is that they always have very positive attitudes. One week away from an IT system release, 50 open high severity issues, loose ends not tidied up, signoff from the business not obtained, quality doesn’t look that great, but the IT leaders are optimists. In the face of all this, they still maintain the calm and positive attitude that everything is working out. Why?!

Your attitude is contagious

If the IT executive goes into a status meeting with business stakeholders with a negative attitude about how bad the quality of the system is, the business stakeholders could easily spiral into a panic. The business stakeholders then take this back to their departments and escalate to their managers. Soon other senior executives are hearing about how bad the project is going. At that point the CIO will start getting blamed and this is not good for the IT executive, the reputation of their team or ultimately for the company and its customers either.

Your attitude affects the attitudes of those around you in the same direction.

This is why people in leadership positions always maintain an aura of limitless optimism. Because they know how their attitude and behaviour will affect others and a positive attitude is always going to have better results.

There are always positive alternatives to move forward

For our IT executive facing a tight deadline with a troubled project and a room full of business stakeholders with expectations of delivery, imagine what a difference a positive attitude makes. The executive says:

The team’s been working very hard and we are looking good for the release next weekend. All the high severity issues will be resolved by X and we’ll have business signoff on Y. Training and comms have been occurring over the past weeks so the business is ready. Feature Z will be delivered in a patch two weeks later and we’ve got this alternative procedure to help till then.

So here not everything can be fixed in time however a change could be delivered in a patch release. Still keeping the stakeholders happy, an alternative process could be put in place, some minor or less often used capabilities could be deferred to a phase 2 with a roadmap in place to achieve them in 3 months’ time.

The result is that yes, the quality of the system may not be flawless however the business stakeholders are not panicked. They haven’t caused alarm in their departments. The CIO is not getting blamed by other executives. And the company’s customers are benefiting from the release still going live.

As a CEO who would you rather have work with you? As an employee who would you rather work for?

You’d rather have a person with a positive attitude working for you and leading your teams than someone who is going to cause panic and reduce the moral of other people in the company, making the company as a whole less productive. As an employee your job is more enjoyable working for someone who is always optimistic than working for someone who shows a negative attitude.

At a macro level, what about the culture of the whole company?

With leaders exhibiting a negative attitude, the team descends into gossip and finger pointing. Attempting to blame others and spending their time covering themselves from blame rather than working towards the team’s goals in the most efficient way.

When the company has leaders who are always optimistic and exhibiting a positive attitude, these attitudes will be picked up by all employees in the company. The employees will feel energised to work and want to strive to achieve things. Where this occurs all across the company, the culture becomes positive and influences staff interactions with customers and also attracts more positive talent to come and work with the company.

Cultivating your positive attitude

So it’s clear why a positive attitude and optimistic outlook is so important for the progress of your career into leadership positions.

Recognising and choosing your attitude

Our greatest freedom is our freedom to choose our attitude – Viktor E. Frankl

You want to be able to recognise what your attitude is at any given moment and how it’s affecting others. When you’re conscious of this and develop this ability you can exercise your freedom to choose your attitude at work.

Positive self-talk

There’s an excellent article at Peter Stark’s Blog that includes 10 ideas to help you exhibit a positive attitude.

One of these is to choose positive self-talk. You can slowly train yourself to think more and more positively through journaling. E.g. if you keep a journal and every morning write down one positive thing or an optimistic thing about the future. Having this in your mind as you go to work will set you off on the right foot and the regular journaling will keep switching your mind to a positive frame of reference for the day ahead.

So take these two actions every day to cultivate a positive attitude at work

  1. When you go into each interaction be aware of your attitude and how it may affect others
  2. Practice your positive self-talk to put your mind in the right frame of reference

There are more great ideas in these articles:

How do you maintain a positive attitude at work?