Leaders at all levels play a crucial role in shaping healthy cultures. Last month, we provided some action steps leaders can take to help improve the psychological health of their organizations and, thus, the mental health of their employees. But are there specific traits that stand out about leaders who create healthy cultures?
Integrity? Yes, for sure. Compassion? Of course. Respect? Always. But over-riding all these traits is one that may be often overlooked in lists of leadership behaviours – and that is ‘positivity’. A healthy workplace begins with leaders who help to sustain a culture of positivity. If employees feel positive about the work they are doing, positive about their leaders, and positive about future outcomes, they will be healthier, and the culture will be healthier.
In business today, where change, challenge, and complexity are the ‘new normal’, some leaders may struggle to project positivity when they are feeling uncertain about the future or even feeling that some challenges are insurmountable. Here are some ways leaders can keep the workplace positive:
- Watch your mood and take time to ‘reset’ if needed. Don’t communicate (through words or body language) any negativity you may be feeling; use self-monitoring techniques to ensure you are not projecting negative emotions in the workplace. If needed, delay communicating until you have taken some time to ‘reset’.
- Ensure that everyone in the organization knows they can be part of achieving the vision. Talk about what the future could look like when everyone works together. Involve people at all levels and work collaboratively to build positive solutions.
- Convey hope for the future and describe a vision that is inspiring. Leaders have a responsibility for shining a positive light on situations while also being realistic about the challenges. Pay a great deal of attention to the words that you use to communicate – keep them positive.
- Be open and realistic in sharing the challenges. We keep saying that leaders need to be transparent, but how can we expect leaders to portray a vision of hope when deep inside they are not feeling it? Knowing that a leader is providing honest information – the truth – will help employees feel they can trust their leader. If a leader is honest, even when times are tough, they will inspire trust which helps shape a culture of positivity. Employees will feel they can count on their leader even when there is adversity.
Earlier this year, an article in Forbes talked about The 7 traits of inspiring leadership that uplifts rather than destroys – you might find this an insightful read.
At the Centre for Character Leadership, we’re passionate about helping organizations create cultures where employees can realize their potential and contribute fully to organizational success – key ingredients for improving employee and organizational health.
Contact me if you would like some coaching on how to project positivity in the workplace.
Kathleen Redmond, MCC