Earlier this month, I had the pleasure of meeting and working with an association that invited me to speak at their annual conference on the subject of influence. Although their membership is extremely diverse, the common denominator for all their members is the fact that they are in a position to profoundly impact their leaders, clients and co-workers on a daily basis. They were keen to learn more about the art and science of influence, and what struck a chord with me was the fact that they were passionate about making a positive difference in their respective workplaces.
Harnessing the power of positive influence is an essential business practice. Great communicators recognize the nuances of language and are highly attuned to the needs and priorities of others during all interactions. Dr. Jane E. Dutton, a renowned psychologist, professor and author of Energize Your Workplace: How to Create and Sustain High Quality Connections at Work (John Wiley & Sons) says: “ Every interaction, with others at work, big or small, has the potential to create or deplete vital energy. Energizing interactions are high quality connections.”
Imagine the possibilities at work if everyone had the desire to be a positive influencer! Sadly, it is the collective whining that often dominates the culture. All too often we default to dishing out criticism instead of compliments, complaints rather than solutions, or find it easier to remain apathetic instead of taking action. Does it take more energy to be positive or negative, or perhaps even more importantly, how does one’s mindset impact the ability to build and maintain successful professional relationships? Positive influencers are willing to engage in conversation and consciously choose to practice the following:
1. Acknowledge differences in opinion
Having divergent points of view during a conversation with a colleague is commonplace. A positive influencer will allow for differences, even if he or she does not agree. A chronic complainer will voice his or her displeasure, brood about the exchange, and have difficulty letting go.
2. Rise above the “naysayers”
Upon hearing negative news at work, a positive influencer will look for the silver lining, rather than joining the chorus of killjoys. He or she will instinctively know that while such news may be unwelcome or unpopular, energy will be better spent focusing on what is within his or her control.
3. Listen rather than talk
The Greek philosopher Epictetus once said: “We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.” His advice has stood the test of time, although the chronic complainer experiences great difficulty adhering to it. In contrast, a positive influencer understands the value of showing interest in others first, prior to sharing his or her thoughts.
4. Take initiative
A chronic complainer’s preferred posture is pessimism. Whenever a positive influencer makes innovative suggestions to improve a process, celebrates the success of a project or goes out on a limb to help a colleague, the complainer will often grumble under his or her breath, or worse, accuse the influencer of scoring points, sucking up to the boss…going to any lengths to make him or her look bad.
In a nutshell, positive influencers know that buying into negativity serves no purpose. Instead, an influencer communicates with confidence, opts for optimism and makes a conscious contribution to the highest good, no matter what the circumstances.
The choice is yours.
About the author
A former media executive and highly sought-after business speaker, Michelle Ray (@michelleraycsp) has delivered has delivered her powerful messages on leadership, accountability and engaged workplaces to the C-Suites of global corporations, academia, diverse association and government groups since 1995. She is the author of Lead Yourself First! Indispensable Lessons in Business & in Life and founder of the Lead Yourself First Institute.