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Ever wanted to feel more positive about your work situation? You’re not alone!

I remember several times when I felt like my situation was all doom and gloom. There was too much work, too many unresolved problems, a lot of politics and too many negative attitudes.

My energy levels were low and every time a new problem emerged I would rather it just went away, rather than seeing it as a challenge to be overcome.

In some work environments, negativity is so common that it feels all-consuming. You say negative things to other people, they agree with your negative comments and add more of their own.

Before you know it, you’re stuck in an environment where everything appears hopeless.

Good Reasons to Try to Feel More Positive at Work

Positive emotions can improve your health and wellbeing, which is a big bonus for leaders. Leaders who feel better are likely to lead better, with higher energy levels and more of a “can do” attitude.

Happy employees - leading peopleFeeling positive is more likely to set a good example for your team, too. If you can approach problems with enthusiasm, your people can see that success is possible.

Leaders who are overly negative can have team members feeling like it’s all hopeless. As if there is no chance of success … so why bother trying?

This can have the knock-on effect of a team starting to lose belief in their leader. They no longer feel that this person can take them where they need to go. In turn, this may mean that team members become resistant and disruptive as they no longer feel the same level of respect they once did.

Perceptions matter, too. If your boss sees you with a positive attitude, you might just be seen as a “go-getter” and “senior management material”.

Doom and gloom does not inspire confidence.

Learn More:  Thoughtful Leader Podcast #140: Are You Being Too Optimistic?

Consider These Factors to Feel More Positive At Work

Over my time coaching various leaders in different industries, roles and countries, I’ve noticed a common trend.

I usually ask how my clients feel about the conversation at the end of my sessions, to get a sense of what was useful and what wasn’t.

My clients often tell me that they feel more optimistic.

Is this because the coaching has solved all their problems?


Optimistic person giving thumbs up

Many are working within messy, political workplaces where there are complex challenges and no easy answers. Many problems are still there, but the difference is that the person is starting to see them differently.

Coaching doesn’t actually change anything by itself. After all, it’s really a conversation between two people.

What changes is the person’s attitude to challenges and recognition of potential opportunities. The way they view their world can change too, and this helps them to take action… which is what really helps change happen.

I’m not writing this so you go out and get coaching. (Of course I think coaching is great and it’s part of what I do for a living and you can read more about it here if you’re interested).

No, the point is to see if I can help you take some of the factors that make my clients feel more positive, and introduce them into your own working life.

And here they are.

Learn More:  4 Reasons Why a Positive Attitude Beats Aptitude.

1. Focus On What You Can Control and Influence

In coaching, we try not to get stuck on things outside of our control. The reason is because we can’t really take much action on these.

If we keep focusing on all the things we can’t do much about, we start to feel powerless and defeated.

That’s why it’s important to spend a little time mapping out what we can influence, and spend more time thinking about those things.

A good way to do this is through the simple Sphere of Control model. I first came across this concept in the book, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

Sphere of Control - Leadership Mindset Change

As you can see, there are three spheres.

In the middle are those things we can directly control, which is where we should spend most of our effort. Move out one ring and we have the factors we can influence.

Move out one more layer and we see in the sphere of concern the factors we can’t do much about. It’s not that we don’t care about the things in the outer circle, it’s just that we know we can’t really do much to change them.

Let’s consider a simple work example. You can directly control whether you will have a conversation with your boss about a pressing issue they are going to make a decision about.

However, you can’t guarantee that they will listen to you, or agree with you… you can only influence this. And when your CEO sets a new corporate strategy, you might not be able to do anything about this – it might fall in your sphere of concern (unless you are the CEO of course!).

As an exercise, take a piece of paper and map out what’s in your three circles at work. 

Focus your effort from inside to outside. First, control, then influence. Remain aware of your sphere of concern, but try not to dwell on it… because you can’t make much change here.

Doing this exercise can simplify your world, and help you channel your effort where you can be the most effective.

Learn More:  How to Influence People to Achieve Your Leadership Goals.

2. Develop a Plan

Another critical part of coaching is the development of actions. These are specific steps that you can take to make some sort of change which will get you closer to where you’d like to go.

Make a plan to gain Confidence in your leadershipOf course, just having a plan doesn’t guarantee success.

But without actions, it’s difficult to see the possibility of change.

Actions will help you feel more in control of your own destiny, and will also help you to show your people that you have a direction to follow.

Having a set of actions also helps you to feel proactive and empowered. You may find yourself starting to think:

“I’m not just sitting around waiting for something to happen – I’m actually doing something about this!”

To develop your plan, you need to focus on what you would like to achieve. Then, it’s a case of breaking the bigger goal down to the steps needed to get there.

You’ll start to feel more positive and hopeful, because you’re taking control and actually trying to do something about your situation, instead of playing the victim.

Learn More:  Do You Have a Victim Leadership Mentality?

3. Feel More Positive By Finding Support

Finding support is the critical third factor that I find helps my coaching clients feel more positive about their situation.

In this case, support comes in several forms. This includes finding someone to:

  • Listen: Having someone to listen to who understands your context can be extremely helpful so that you don’t feel like you’re “going it alone”
  • Test your thinking: It’s important to find a “sounding board” – someone who you can test your thinking with and bounce ideas off; and
  • Hold you accountable: If we’re only accountable to ourselves, we sometimes fail to take action because we know we’re only letting ourselves down. But if someone else is invested in our progress, this can sometimes be the push we need to try harder and do what we said we would do.

So where do you find this support?

Training and support - nervous employee
Well, you might find it in a trusted current or former colleague, a mentor or a coach. If you’re lucky, you’ll find it in your own manager!

Ideally, it will be someone you trust, who can be honest with you, provide you useful feedback and offer advice where needed.

This support will help you to feel more positive, because you will have someone to think with. That is, you aren’t just doing it all on your own, which can lead to self doubt as you start to ask yourself “Am I on the right track?”

Going it alone can feel isolating and have you second-guessing yourself, which is why this support is so important.

Learn More:  How Self Doubt Will Make You a Better Leader.

In Combination, These Three Factors Can Help You Feel More Positive

Focusing on what you can control, developing specific actions to take and gaining support will combine to help you feel more positive about your situation.

It’s empowering to feel as if we are taking control of our own destiny.

Your problems won’t magically disappear, but even in the face of challenges you’ll feel more hopeful and optimistic that you are on the right path.

What factors have made you feel more positive in your leadership role? Let me and all the other thoughtful leaders know in the comments below.

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