"I can't get my head right. It seems like I am in an endless cycle of negative thoughts, a defeatist mindset, and my team members are acting the same way."
As the leader finished his thought in our coaching session, he exhaled heavily.
His demeanor showed me he wanted it to get better. He captured a real problem that would hold him and his team back from success, and his experience is not unique.
As we dug into what he believed was causing his constant negativity, he mentioned things like zoom fatigue, the endless pandemic, and revenue shortfall.
After I assured him I heard similar themes from leaders across the board, as his coach, I had to be honest with him:
The attitude of the team is a reflection of the leadership it receives.
I've been guilty of pulling my team down with a poor attitude, and I see it repeatedly in my work. This experience proves a struggling team looks to the leader and their attitude to set the tone.
Attitude is one of these words that is widely misunderstood. It means a settled way of thinking or feeling about something or someone. It's typically reflected in our behavior. I asked Rob McKinnon, author of Lead Like You Were Meant To, about the importance of a leader's attitude. He said, "Attitude is inside out and cascades down and around everyone around us."
I even covered the topic in a recent video - Attitude Reflects Leadership.
The interesting thing about our attitude and the attitude reflected in team members is that it's challenging to change once it starts to go south. While someone can do this successfully if they have a lot of emotional intelligence, training, and experience, most professionals struggle to modify it at the moment.
A different approach is required to prevent a negative attitude. There are four key steps: Reject comparison, focus on the good, catch the blaming and excuses, energize with one win.
C.S Lewis wisely said, "Comparison is the thief of joy." As simple as this sounds, it can be challenging to put into practice. We are blasted with the incredible achievements and wonderful lives of those we know or aspire to know on social media. The problem is, each person's journey is unique, and rarely do we know the hardships a person, team, or company has had to overcome.
Even though it's human nature to compare and benchmark ourselves against others, our thoughts can easily take a negative nosedive. The only way comparison is used for good is if it fuels your work ethic, desire, and ambition. Take note: your desire to achieve more has to come from a positive place, not one of angst or revenge.
To prevent a negative attitude, find and focus on the good, regardless of how small it may seem. When we're in a negative mode already, we tend to downplay the positives and blow the negatives out of proportion. For example, yesterday was a challenging day for me. Not only did I receive some bad news on the home front, but we lost a deal, and another got delayed. At the end of the day, I felt a little beat down. Instead of allowing the negativity to take hold, I used the Rule of 3 Positives:
The rule is simple. Each day, write down three positive things you did or experienced. Here is my actual list of Rule of 3 Positives from yesterday:
These were all things that made my day good. By celebrating and reminding myself of them, I rejected the day's negativity and focused on the positive. If you get into the habit of using the Rule of 3 Positives at the end of every day, you will prevent a bad attitude before it happens.
One of the most popular ways many people (including myself) feed negativity is blaming others and making excuses. A few weeks ago, while reviewing a sales manager's SkillsLoft dashboard with him, I noticed he pointed blame towards someone else when we began discussing his weaknesses.
After a while, I stopped him and asked his permission to provide some feedback and coaching. After he accepted, I said, "I am seeing a pattern of you making excuses or constantly pointing blame at your team. And while this might be the case, what would be a more effective approach to help you grow and get better?" His response was spot on, "I hate when my team makes excuses or blames our clients. It bothers me that I am doing the same. Moving forward, I am going to catch myself when I blame someone else or make an excuse."
I give this leader a ton of credit; He even set up a system of accountability with his wife and his team to call him out when they hear an excuse.
Energy is one of these strange things that's essential for success but difficult to determine exactly where it comes from. Some people wake up with relentless energy to attack the day, and for others, it takes 2 or 3 cups of coffee before they can do anything.
Regardless of which kind of person you are, without energy, you have nothing. The key is to create your own energy each day by doing things you are passionate about and achieving small wins each day. Instead of trying to boil the ocean, use the "ONE WIN" strategy.
At the beginning of your day, define what one win you want to achieve today. The best examples are always process-oriented and not outcome-oriented. For example, a salesperson might have a ONE-WIN strategy of "reach out to 10 meaningful contacts." A front-line manager might have a ONE-WIN strategy of "spent one-on-one time with each of my team members."
You will be amazed at the energy you get by defining your "ONE WIN" at the beginning of the day and working to make it a reality before the end of it.
There is nothing easy about turning a bad attitude into a good one. But it's a worthwhile endeavor because, as I told an audience last week, "when you change your attitude, you change your life."
Here is the best part, as a leader, when you change your attitude, it will show up in your team members because the attitude of a team is a reflection of the leadership it receives.
About the Author: John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft, a leadership development company helping executives and managers to lead their best. He was named one of LinkedIn’s Top Voices in Management & Workplace. John is also the author of Building the Best: 8 Proven Leadership Principles to Elevate Others to Success. You can follow him on Instagram @johngeades.
John is the CEO of LearnLoft, author of, F.M.L. Standing Out & Being a Leader and host of the 'Follow My Lead' Podcast. He writes or has been featured on Inc.com, LinkedIn Pulse, TrainingIndustry.com, eLearningIndustry.com, CNBC Money, and more. John completed his education at the University of Maryland College.