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Encourage Positive Thinking Makes Exceptional Employees

By Lee Jampolsky, Ph.D.

Exceptional employees make for exceptional businesses. You certainly can recognize a great employee when you see one—whether it’s the co-worker who motivates her team during a crisis or a customer service representative who turns an angry caller into a loyal customer. Often, the thing that separates an average employee from an exceptional one is attitude. By helping your employees overcome negative thinking, you can turn your average employees into the kind of professionals who will bring success to your company year after year.

In business today, most employers don’t stress enough the need for a positive attitude; rather, they concentrate on more “important” professional development activities. They would rather spend training dollars sending an employee to a seminar on negotiation strategies or marketing tactics rather than one on developing positive attitudes and beliefs—the business tools that really make or break success. What employers fail to realize is that an employee’s attitude is even more important than his or her ability to locate prospects and negotiate deals. No matter how “good” that employee is, without addressing attitude, your best efforts in developing that employee will be in vain.

Your prospects, current customers, and even your community judge you and your company based on the attitudes and language your employees put out to the world. Employees who act and speak negatively, departments that settle for status quo, and managers that see a dismal future send the message that your company is without vision, without leadership, and probably incapable of delivering quality service. People want to do business with those individuals they perceive as positive, skilled, and able to overcome obstacles. Your employees’ attitude and language reflect your professionalism and move your company to new levels of success. So don’t settle for negative thinking in your employees. Instead, encourage them, and teach them how to focus on the positives.  

Fortunately, you don’t have to be a trained psychologist to change negative attitudes and bring positive attitude and vision to your company. Strong leaders can transform negative attitudes and language that could cost them sales, customer satisfaction, and loyalty into positive thoughts that yield happy employees and customers. Use the following two methods to develop the kind of exceptional employee who will keep your customers coming back and your business growing strong.

1) Get Rid of the "Yeah Buts." Resist searching for ways by which your personal, departmental, or company success can be taken away. Every time you have a thought like, ”Well, yeah, maybe I can make a sale, but if production doesn’t do their part, then I can’t sell anything,” you are giving power to negative thinking, which prevents you from making something positive happen.

To get rid of your “yeah buts,” deal with them the same way as you control weeds in your yard—by pulling one at a time. Negative thoughts—just like weeds—will rapidly grow out of control unless you stop them. Nothing is more important in any given moment than focusing on what you can do, rather than on what you can’t. When you have a “yeah-but” moment, ask yourself, “Does this ‘yeah-but’ have to limit my success?” You’ll quickly realize that it doesn’t. You can then reframe your statement to focus on the positive rather than the negative. Above all else, teach your employees the power of positive thinking by demonstrating that difficult circumstances may be unavoidable, but failure is optional.

2) Stop Playing the “If Only-Then” and the “When-Then” Game: Quicksand. Just the word conjures up images of an old Tarzan movie: a naive visitor to the jungle takes that fateful step into the pit of sludge, thinking it solid ground, and then starts flailing about and sinks rapidly. Quicksand Thinking, as the term suggests, is when you step into a disguised and dangerous way of thinking and begin to sink faster than the poor fellow in the Tarzan movie. The most common form of Quicksand Thinking in business is When-Then and If Only-Then beliefs. When you engage in If Only-Then thinking, you believe meeting your goal is impossible because of something that occurred in the past. When you engage in When-Then thinking you believe that your goal achievement is conditional upon something happening in the future.

The first step in getting out of Quicksand Thinking is recognizing that you have fallen into it. Identify your If Only-Then and When-Then thinking. The following is a list of common If Only-Then and When-Then statements that are often heard in the business world. Have you caught yourself saying any of these?

Favorite “If Only-Then” Beliefs

If only I had not done what I did, then I could be successful.

If only I was not under so much pressure, then I could be more effective.

If only I'd had a better support staff, then I could meet my goals.

If only I had better leads from management, then I would make the sales.

If only I had a different job, then I would feel motivated.

Favorite “When-Then” Beliefs

When you stop doing what you are doing, then I will work as a team member.

When I have more of a budget, then I will be able to meet expectations.

When I get promoted, then I will give it my all.

When I am back from vacation, then I will address this problem.

When I find the right position, then I will be happy.

In the Tarzan movies, if the unfortunate soul in the quicksand was smart enough to stay still, the next step was to hope somebody would throw him a vine. If only the victim knew that he didn’t need to rely on someone else to get him out. He had the power within him. All he needed to do was to stop panicking, relax his body, and spread his arms and legs. Then his body would have risen to the top of the quicksand and he could crawl out.

 When you find yourself in Quicksand Thinking, be still. Remind yourself, “This way of thinking is sinking me!” Next, consciously choose to change the way you think and come up with a solution. Sounds too simplistic, but it works! In short, the key to getting out of quicksand thinking is not to panic, but be still, recognize your if only-then and when-then thinking, and try a new approach. You will be surprised by what you can accomplish when you stop thinking negatively. Focus on what you can do, rather than on what you can’t.

Better Attitude Now: Competition in business is fierce these days. With so many similar products or services out there, a positive attitude can mean the difference between keeping a customer and losing one. Don’t let a negative attitude or contaminated outlook kill the deal. Practice recognizing and letting go of your “yeah but,” “if only-then,” and “when-then” thinking so every interaction showcases your positive outlook, experience, and professionalism. Before you know it, your customers will be unable to resist your can-do attitude, and your business will soar.

Read other articles and learn more about Dr. Lee Jampolsky.

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