Let me start off by getting some self-admonishing out of the way: I have never been a naturally positive person and, at times, can struggle to see the silver lining. This has been particularly true in my professional career, where the most consistent goal on my professional development to-do list is working to be more positive on a day-to-day basis.
It took me awhile to truly understand the power of positivity in the workplace, but at Taoti I have had the good fortune of working with a team of project managers, creatives, and developers that show up to work every day with a smile and passion for their work. Getting to collaborate with some of these folks has helped me approach my mindset in a different way and appreciate the importance of maintaining positivity whenever possible.
For those that might be taking their sweet time and learning lessons about the power of positivity the hard way, here is a quick course on the most important things that I have learned throughout my career:
(1) Positivity and happiness are not the same thing
Lots of people fall into the trap of thinking that because they are not happy, they can’t be positive. Not true. While happiness is how you feel, positivity is an approach to be employed in a given situation – the purpose of which is to inspire confidence, reduce the emotional load you place on coworkers, and convey a sense of leadership (more on that below).
This lesson was actually the last one I learned about being positive, but it should be the most important takeaway for those that are struggling with the ability to present a positive façade in the face of adversity. To be clear, I am not advocating for a universal positivity – there are certain situations in which negativity can have a motivating effect and is necessary to communicate – but rather that if you focus on maintaining positivity in the majority of your interactions, it will amplify your good work and make you a more pleasant person to be around.
(2) Positivity is a skill
While working at Model B, I had the good fortune of working with Abtin Buergari – a seasoned vet of the start-up world – who taught me an immense amount in a short period of time. One of the most important lessons he taught me was that positivity is more than a personal attitude, it is an asset to the business that can be equal to the skills listed on your resume.
In his words: “Employees live and die by their attitudes, not by their skills. I would rather have an employee with ‘so-so’ skills and a super positive attitude than a Debby-downer rock star.”
Just like any other skill, positivity is something you must practice on a regular basis before it becomes a habit. Take the time to regularly express positivity to those around you and before long you will find that your overall approach to work and management of your teams becomes significantly more positive.
(3) Leaders are positive
This one isn’t complicated, but it is an underrated trait when considering qualifications for leadership positions. Far too often, employees expect that the smartest, most talented, and hardest workers will become the leaders within their organizations – only to be surprised when these people fail to inspire confidence in their teams. Positivity is the burst of air in the sails of a team and leaders are expected to provide that for their colleagues. Learning to balance good work with a good attitude will take you further than simply putting your nose to the grindstone and out hustling your colleagues.
It is pretty easy to see that I have a lot more lessons to learn about positivity and its role in the workplace, but I am excited to continue learning from my peers and developing a professional skill set that helps me enable better work and happier team members on the teams that I lead. Hopefully some of these lessons will help you skip some of the tough lessons that I have learned over the years and I encourage everyone to share their thoughts with me on the power of positivity in the workplace. This is a community effort and together we can achieve more than we would alone!