Positive Attitudes Boost Store Revenues

Phillip Perry Square Headshot

Photo of Phillip M. PerryHappy workers mean higher profits, whether your company manufactures spas or retails them. Customers at every level are inspired to buy more when everyone on the job communicates a positive mental attitude.

But how can you promote good workplace vibes? Management gurus say it's a two-step process. First, make a decision to develop and maintain your own healthy emotional outlook. Second, inspire this same mental state among your employees.

It all starts with you. "It's essential to make a conscious decision to have a positive mental attitude [PMA]," says Amy Dee-Kristensen, a consultant based in Mitchell, S.D. "PMA is not a constant state but a choice you make, a kind of structure upon which you stand. When bad events happen, you may fall off the structure temporarily, but you climb back on."

A healthy PMA requires mental preparation. "Practice visualizing your success," suggests Dee-Kristensen, likening the process to a map that guides you to your destination. "As human beings, we have the ability to picture goals, then figure out how to reach them."

Visualization works when you imagine yourself in winning situations. Here's an example: Suppose you are scheduled to meet with an important new prospect or client this afternoon. Before the event, take a few minutes to pause and imagine yourself in a productive, upbeat meeting. "Visualize yourself as a successful participant at that meeting," suggests Dee-Kristensen. Then, when you enter the room for the meeting, your visualized image will become a template for your actions. You will interact with others in the meeting in a productive way that enhances your reputation.

Damage Control

Visualization can't do everything, of course. A project you counted on fizzles. A plan falls through. And that meeting you were visualizing? The client threw cold water all over your ideas.

In short, bad things happen. But remember this: While we cannot control many bad events, we can control how we react to them. "Negative emotions arise not from events but from how we respond to events," says Dee-Kristensen. "Two people may respond very differently."

Dee-Kristensen offers as examples the statements commonly heard when a tornado rips through town. One man says, "This is the worst thing that ever happened to me; how will I rebuild?" Another says, "It's been a horrible thing, but my family is okay and even our dog was spared."

How Can You Handle Negative People?

Staying happy is tough under any conditions. But what if your workplace is a "toxic" one where staff members exhibit negativity all day long?

"Vow to yourself not to let the negativity of others get to you," says Ian Jacobsen, a management consultant based in Morgan Hill, Calif. "Remember that negativity is a mind game and recognize it as such. You can play along with the game, or you can call people on their game."

Suppose, for example, people are continually harping on the "downsides" of a particular work situation. What can you do? Jacobsen suggests addressing such people with words such as these: "We have devoted a lot of time to identifying and discussing the negative aspects of this. But most issues have both a negative and a positive side. Let's refocus our efforts on identifying the positives and try to figure out a more positive way of dealing with this situation. I see ________ and ________ as positive steps we can take. What other things can we do to make a difference?"

Another option, says Jacobsen, is to pose as a "fly on the wall" and report your observations. "If I were a fly on the wall observing what has been going on for the past half an hour, I would have made the following observations: ___________. These strike me as complaining without posing better ways of dealing with these issues. Let's think of how we could deal with these issues more positively."

Strategically, notes Jacobsen, it is better to elicit positives from the group members rather than to suggest them yourself. You may have to fall back to making suggestions, but it is preferable to have the group "own" the ideas.

Dealing with negative people, as the above comments suggest, takes some creative thinking. "Negativity is the way some people choose to deal with life," says Jacobsen. "Ask yourself how you want to deal with negative people in the workplace in such a way that you will be proud of yourself for how you handled it.

—P.P.

In other words, happy people have "glass half full" mentalities. "Think about your thoughts as a red pickup truck pulling a blue trailer that represents the emotions that follow," suggests Dee-Kristensen. "Now think of a street, the path down which you choose to steer your thoughts."

Sometimes you choose a street that is not productive. Maybe you are dwelling on what a certain person said at work. In such cases ask yourself, "Is this thought really working for me?" If not, change your thoughts to other topics.

Make 'Em Laugh

Engineering your own PMA is one thing. Spreading positive wealth among your staff members is quite another. And yet promoting workplace happiness is critical to success. That's because employee negativity, left unaddressed, can drive customers away and dampen your own PMA. (For ideas on handling that situation, see the sidebar "How Can You Handle Negative People?")

What is Happiness?

Everyone wants happiness. But what is it? Philosophers from ancient Greece to modern times say happiness results from doing work well. That's the conclusion of Dr. Peter Koestenbaum, founder and Chairman of Philosophy in Business, Carmel-by-the-Sea, Calif.

"The greatest pleasure, the highest sense of meaning, and the most powerful experiences of fulfillment seem to come, again and again, when we achieve a seemingly impossible task that needs to get done and that only we can do," says Koestenbaum, a former professor of philosophy at San José Sate University in California who now brings philosophy into the business environment.

"And the job must be accomplished against all odds, outer and inner, and by who I am, the inwardness that is I," adds Koestenbaum. "That means that happiness, after all is said and done, is my 'Job One' truly well done."

You can apply this concept to finding happiness in your own workplace where achievements rank high, says Dr. Koestenbaum. You experience joy when you solve customer problems, create value, increase profits and improve the business environment.

To do your job even better, suggests Dr. Koestenbaum, ask yourself — and especially your co-workers and your clients — stimulating questions such as these:

  • How do you make the highest quality decisions, ones you hoped never to face, in times of painful change and paralyzing stress?
  • What needs to shift in your self-concept and worldview to bring about a new level of improvement — in you and in your staff?
  • How do you raise strategic awareness, responsible commitment, deeper self-knowledge, enhanced innovation and insert more character and maturity into communication?

"Answering and dialoging on questions such as these helps develop a mindset that supports tough and passionate leaders," says Dr. Koestenbaum. "Individuals in management positions can gain additional strength, self-confidence and effectiveness as they meet some of the most difficult tasks conceivable."

—P.P.

Your challenge then is to turn negative workers into productive performers who help create profits. "I believe the true definition of leadership is the capacity to influence others by unleashing their power and potential to impact the greater good of the organization," says Arlene Rosenberg, a professional development coach based in Scottsdale, Ariz.

At one level, unleashing people power means providing employees with the training and materials required to perform their jobs well. But at a deeper level it also means creating a positive work environment. "If you cultivate the happiness of the people you work with, you will create an environment where there will be lots of profit," says Rosenberg. "Happy people bring profit."

How? Create a workplace where people cooperate as a team, says Rosenberg. For example: Suppose your salesman is puzzled about how to connect with a particular customer. Rather than supply a quick answer, ask him to brainstorm with other employees. When people become accustomed to helping one another, the result is greater productivity.

On an individual level, empower people to self-correct when they underperform. Was a certain task left unattended? Then challenge the responsible individual to find a solution, suggests Rosenberg. "Ask the person questions such as, 'What will you do to make up for what did not get done? Are you willing to stay late tomorrow night or come in early, or devote a day at home to getting your act together?'" People who are empowered to make good on their performance develop a positive self-image and feel happy.

Full Speed Ahead

Thousands of thoughts go through your mind every day. Which ones will you cultivate? Your happiness and your workplace performance depend on the answer. "Your mental attitude is the most important determinant of what you accomplish in life," says Ian Jacobsen, a management consultant based in Morgan Hill, Calif. "With a negative mental attitude your glass is always half empty. You worry and suspect the worst. People can't be trusted and you set up a self-fulfilling prophesy for problems. You look for excuses for why you did not come through on your promises. Finally, the people you attract will likely share your negative outlook so you commiserate."

Cultivate a happy PMA and things are much different. "With a positive attitude, you believe in yourself and your ability to make a difference," says Jacobsen. "You welcome new challenges that test your limits. Your chances of success are greatly increased. The speed bumps in the road of life may slow you down, but they don't bring you down. You are able to view life as a grand, life-long experiment. You attract other positive-minded people and create a self-fulfilling prophecy for success. You have a joie de vivre. Life is good!"

Comments or thoughts on this article? Please e-mail [email protected].

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