Archives for posts with tag: positive attitude

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?


18Journal-BannerThe ability to respond positively when faced with setbacks is a key characteristic of many leaders in the workplace. Keeping a gratitude journal will help you embed a more positive outlook into your day to day behaviour so that it becomes your natural reaction to any dire situation. In this post I’ll cover the idea of the gratitude journal, how to do it – it’s extremely simple and takes only a few minutes each day, and the benefits.

The idea is very simple

Each day write down 3 things you’re grateful for in your gratitude journal. You can write about anything – nothing is too insignificant. For example maybe it started raining very heavily on your way home and you had your umbrella with you; or somebody did you a favour that allowed you to impress your boss with a quick result.

To get started you can try some simple prompts, such as:

  • I’m grateful that someone did X so I could achieve …
  • I’m grateful I made the right decision on …
  • I’m grateful technology Z is around so I can do something unbelievable …
  • I’m grateful to have the support of …
  • I’m grateful my practice prepared me for …

You could also try thinking of what it would be like if you didn’t have certain things. This can lead to the realisation of something you have gratitude for.

The benefits

This gets you in the habit of thinking of the positive things that happen and celebrating your achievements. This has a flow on effect of putting you in a more positive mindset, and that further flows on to your day to day responses to setbacks. Next time an unpleasant surprise comes up at work you might automatically think of the positive aspects of the situation and how to take advantage of those for a win-win outcome rather than clouding your thoughts with worries.

When you read back what you’ve written you’ll realise that there are so many positive things going on and you’ll feel happy and confident with your ability to tackle anything. You’ll also reinforce the memories of people doing you favours and helping you which will remind you to repay those favours. Another result of reading back your gratitude’s is that you’ll appreciate the simple things that you previously overlooked and which make a lot of difference.

What you really want to achieve is that you’re such a naturally calm and positive problem solver that when problems prop up, someone criticises your work, a request is denied or any other obstacle presents itself; it doesn’t faze you at all. Those little problems are nothing to you and you take it in your stride and react professionally, showing leadership and management ability.

Or, you may simply be looking to embrace the positive things for a happier outlook and coach yourself to take a new approach to setbacks and challenges. Either way, the gratitude journal will help you get there.

Take the 30 day gratitude journaling challenge

I came across a gratitude journal with space to write 3 things for 30 days which is what gave me this idea and made me think of the benefits of doing this. So I’ve started writing down 3 things each day that I’m happy about. At the end of the month I’ll review everything I’ve written and see all the positive things that have happened and what I’ve been happy about for the past month.

Is there anyone out there who has tried this? How did it work for you? Or maybe you practice journaling a different way – frequently with small amounts or less often but with deep focus. Let us know about it and how it benefits you!

actionIf you’ve been challenged by a critical time in your project and have been working overtime on your most important tasks every day, you may have neglected some basic housekeeping. You may have a sizeable chunk of emails in your ‘Reply to’ folder and have built up a couple of hundred action items in your actions logs. This post is to show you how to get back on track and instil some discipline in terms of dedicating the required time to your actions lists and emails. If you don’t, as things sit on your plate un-actioned, the likelihood of risk events increases and so does the cost of resolving the impacts if the risk events do occur.

So what if actions pile up? If they were important I’d be actioning them as my most important tasks right?

For the big ones yes! However some things that require your creative and analytical energy can take all of your time if the project is going through tight deadlines. The added pressure can result in you dedicating more and more time to the deliverables and not reserving any time for the housekeeping.

This creates risk for various reasons:

  • Not managing expectations – Others may be expecting you to be working on something when you actually aren’t, then they eventually get surprised
  • Causing delays to other people’s work – Others may have a dependency on you and be waiting for feedback, not responding for an extended time will cause delays
  • Problems not being uncovered early enough – One of your actions may have identified an issue that people would have started working on immediately, and delaying this could have turned a small issue into a much larger issue.

All of these can do a lot of damage to your hard earned reputation and people will be asking – why didn’t you call it out, let us know or follow that up?

Actioning your action items or emails doesn’t mean solving all the problems yourself – delegate!

This is what project managers do for a large part of their day – Move the actions along. They don’t try to solve the problem for all 200+ actions that may have built up in a log after various stakeholder engagement sessions and workshops and a flood of emails. Instead the experienced PM just makes sure that somebody is covering the action items, and that they are not just sitting in the PM’s to do list gathering virtual dust! That’s the most important thing to prevent risks building up un-noticed – make sure your actions are moving along, not gathering dust.

If you’re starting in project management, or as a people manager, delegation is a very important skill to build up in your capabilities. Without this skill, you’ll be spending all of your time creating work products and won’t be able to spend time planning, gathering data from your colleagues, understanding the organisational structure, or managing a project or a team. These are all activities that you need to be spending time on!

CYA – Cover your bottom

Some people save every email in an effort to CYA. I’ve found that a much more effective way of protecting yourself in a project environment is to follow the rule of:

If there’s an official place for something in a project – put it in its official place as soon as possible

E.g. Actions in actions logs, decisions in decisions registers, risks raised in risk registers, dependencies in dependency registers and project plans, approvals saved in a dedicated place. Etc.

Don’t be afraid to put things in project risk registers that can be seen by many people… All you need to do is state facts, keep it very brief and with positive language – don’t write anything that could offend anybody.

This ensures that you’ll never get caught out and blamed for not having communicated a risk/issue and also that you won’t need to dig through emails to refute blame if someone does try to point the finger at you for a problem.

Digging through emails to refute blame after an issue has occurred, and engaging in these ‘wars’ with people will damage a hard earned reputation and make you look silly and immature, even if you ‘win’. You want to maintain a positive attitude so people see you as positive, calm, helpful and hard working – all the time. Then people think of you as management material.

So how do you do it? Make cycling through your actions and emails the most important task for one day a week

If you’re using the excellently simple productivity habits of a daily 1-2-3 list and spending a solid 1-2 hours on your most important task as soon as you start work, you’ll know exactly how to begin tackling this issue.

Simply add an ‘Email cleanse’ task to your 1-2-3 list once or twice a week, make it a ‘1’ so it’s your most important task and spend an hour on it. Then do the same with an ‘Actions log’ task. Doing this ensures you don’t put off your housekeeping and let your actions and emails grow out of control. I like to use post-it notes for my 1-2-3 tasks and stick them on the bottom of my monitor to pick off during the day.

Keep your email inbox clean – create a system –the simpler the better

Here’s a simple system:

  1. Create 4 folders outside the Inbox – Reply, FollowUp, Reference and Personal (for any non-work emails)
  2. Set up an email rule so that anything you receive that is sent from you (i.e. an email where you Bcc’d yourself) goes to the FollowUp folder
  3. Set aside a few times a day where you’ll actively process your email and during these sessions, go through this cycle.

Email Cleansing Cycle:

  1. If an email requires a reply and you can action within 2 minutes do it immediately, otherwise move it to the Reply folder
  2. If you are sending or replying to an email and you’ll need to follow it up again later, Bcc yourself (so it goes directly to your FollowUp folder for later)
  3. Any approvals you receive for your deliverables (e.g. business signoffs) should be saved somewhere outside of email, then moved to your Reference folder
  4. Any approvals you give should be moved to your Reference folder
  5. Personal emails can be moved to your Personal folder
  6. Cycle through your Reply folder, FollowUp folder and action the items – move them into an actions log and delete the emails if you can.
  7. I like to delete anything else that I can so that I don’t end up with a massive amount of emails – You’ll leave the company at some point and you don’t want to have to sort through mountains of emails to try to work out whether you need to keep anything.

Most executives I’ve met block out time in their diaries for ‘emails’. These people must have 100s of emails waiting for feedback, a decision or direction, without which a project can’t proceed. The longer these replies are delayed, the more the risk (and cost of remediation) increases. So while you may graduate from tracking lists of 100s of action items, risks and pending decisions, you will need to get really good at dealing with emails and delegation in particular to be an executive!

How do you stay on top of the mountain of action items and emails?