Like all leaders, you probably spend time wondering how to energise your staff and build employee morale. Leaders often look for organisational solutions such as flexible working conditions or a monthly newsletter, however thanks to a chance encounter when I was a 22 year old junior planning assistant, I discovered that a leader can choose to be awesome and in doing so will energize their staff.
Typically, as a newly appointed junior planning assistant in a large defence design and development sub contractor, I would make the walk down the corridor from manufacturing past the senior manager’s offices to engineering several times per day, however today I would learn the most influential leadership lesson of my life.
With little enthusiasm I started the walk down the corridor I quickly bumped into Phil, the Engineering manager, I asked him how he was, he smiled and replied in a softly spoken Scottish accent “Excellent, Ian, our new prototype is almost finished in production thanks to the enthusiasm of people like you ” and went on his way.
I continued down the corridor, now with an air of confidence and with positive energy, then about half way to the engineering department the chief manufacturing engineer Jim came out of his office and I asked him how he was. He replied “I am totally crap and sick of this garbage from production” (he may have sworn a bit too), and then went on his way.
As I walked away from Jim, I began to reflect on how the two greetings had impacted me. I walked away from Phil with a smile on my face, and a spring in my step, but after talking to Jim I noticed that I felt flat, even the uplift that I had received from Phil only moments before had gone.
Over the next few months I observed that Phil was always “excellent” or “winning” and Jim was always frustrated and willing to share his negative emotions. It was logical to me that if their jobs were similar and they worked for the same company they must surely encounter the same level of frustrations every day.
I wondered what was different about Phil?
Not long after this encounter I was accepted into University to study management. Due to work commitments I was generally the last student arriving for the Strategic Planning class, which was held in a small lecture theatre suited to 20-30 students. When I entered the lecture theatre I would ask everyone who was already there how they were. The replies reflected a defeated, frustrated group of people; and so when someone would ask me how I was, I would reply “Yeah I’m OK”.
On about week 4 of 24 I decided to try an experiment to see if I could affect other people through being positive, just as Phil had affected me. I set myself a mission to be “awesome”. When asked how I was, I would say “I am awesome!” and offer the key highlight of my week in explanation.
To my surprise, on week 7 or 8 after only 3 or 4 weeks of being awesome, when I entered the lecture theatre and asked how everyone was, every person replied with a strong positive feeling including an anecdote or highlight from their week, and this cycle of positive continued for the remaining 16 weeks of the course.
From this experience it became apparent to me that you don’t have to be a leader to influence a group of people to be positive, you just have to decide to put the energy into being positive.
There were days where I would reach the door of the lecture theatre and pause, having had a tough day and thinking to myself “where will I find the energy to today?”, on these days I closed my eyes briefly and took a deep breath, pulled my shoulders back and walk in with my “awesome” on. It’s always worth the effort.
Being positive is contagious; people love to talk to someone who is on top of the world. It’s refreshing to be around someone with such positive energy, and the best part is that positivity is contagious. Do you have the energy to be awesome?
Do you have the courage to be “awesome” and in doing so inspire those around you to focus on the positive things in their life? Why not take the lead, next time someone asks how you are smile and say “awesome” then share a highlight of your week.
Ian helps leaders to motivate and inspire their teams through a combination of developing strong operational management systems aligned to your strategy and a focus on leading people using techniques that we know improve employee engagement and lift team’s performance by between 30% and 220%. To find out how you can benefit from Ian’s expertise select the “leading for performance button” and begin your journey to higher performing team.