Right around the end of April every year, someone would put the number of days left of school in the corner of the whiteboard in our office. The countdown to how many days left of school would begin. I never thought about the message it sent or what it said about us until I heard about a mindshift change that I embraced. It is one of those opportunities that I wish I would have thought of to shift our thinking at school. After I left my principalship, I heard of people sharing “Only 25 days left to make a difference in the life of a child at our school! Be a life changer!” Wow, what if I could have changed the countdown from a negative to a positive?
Just the other day, I asked an educator exactly that question, “How many days do you have left to make a difference in the life of a child?” Her answer, “A lifetime!” That is phenomenal positivity! At our last MEMSPA conference, Jimmy Casas reminded us about keeping the September feeling all year long, to keep the focus on what is most important, the children. There is research on positivity and how we can motivate and influence our staff to focus on being a life changer!
A key finding from the research of Kim Cameron, a Professor of Management and Organizations at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business supports that a focus on the positive produces the heliotropic effect. This effect is defined as the tendency in all living systems toward that which gives life and away from that which depletes life—toward positive energy and away from negative energy.
A leader’s positive outlook builds and strengthens a team more than a focus on negative traits. According to Cameron, research on “positive energizers” vs “negative energizers” reveals that it is a learned trait, not just what our personality inventory reveals as either an extrovert or introvert! Positive energizers support, strengthen, and leave people uplifted. Negative energizers, deplete energy in others and leave people exhausted and diminished.
Further, researchers have found that those who positively energize others are higher performers, enhance the work of others, and those who interact with or are connected to energizers also perform better(Baker, 2003) More reason to see things in a positive light, with a focus not on problems but opportunities. To be part of the solution and not part of the problem! Not counting down the days, but counting up!
According to Cameron, the implication for being a “positive energizer” is NOT:
- Just smile and everything will be fine
- Make sure you only give praise
- Make sure everyone gets a blue ribbon
- Never criticize your people
- Don’t worry about problems and obstacles
- Just be enthusiastic
- Inducing positive states has significant impact on: --Physical health – Mental health – Brain activity – Social relationships --Work productivity and – Life expectancy
- In other words, the heliotropic effect exists!
- Capitalize on the heliotropic effect. How can you positively embarrass someone?
- Foster positive energy. How can you advocate for or nurture just one person?
- Focus on abundance! People get consumed by problems and obstacles. How can you see the strengths of a person in a new way?
- Celebrate what goes right. Problems usually dominate our attention. How can you focus on gratitude via notes and or keeping a journal?
- People work harder.
- People perform better on the job.
- People display more mental acuity.
- People make higher quality decisions.
- People are more creative and more flexible in their thinking.
- People are more adaptive and resilient after trials and trauma.
- People engage in more helping behaviors and citizenship activities.