5 Strategies For Taking a More Positive Leadership Approach

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 Second of two parts

In Like Ringing a Bell: How to Bring Out the Best in Employees, we explored the concept that YOU are Pavlov’s Bell to your employees.

Actually, you are Pavlov’s Bell wherever you go and with all of your relationships, but we focused on how this concept affects your ability to bring out the best in your employees.

The overall take away messages was this: “You are Pavlov’s Bell to the people you manage, for better or for worse.

The positive approach

Whether you are experienced as a Positive Pavlov’s Bell or a Negative Pavlov’s Bell is determined by the dominant emotional themes of your interactions with them. If the emotional theme is predominantly negative, just your presence or voice will trigger negative emotions in them, making it far harder for you to get great results from them.

Conversely, if your interactions are frequently positive — i.e. you show appreciation, you notice the good things they do, you share good news—they will associate positive emotions with you. Thus, when they see you or hear you voice, you are likely to trigger a positive emotional state in them.

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To them, you are a positive Pavlov’s Bell.

OK, so that’s a quick review. Now, let’s talk strategy.

5 strategies for being positive

What can you DO to make sure you are a positive Pavlov’s Bell to people?

  1. Review your relationships for the dominant emotional theme — Review your relationships with direct reports, peers, and superiors. Ask “Am I a positive, negative, or neutral Pavlov Bell for them?” If you’re not sure, reflect on conversations you’ve had with them over the last six months as well as the most memorable ones you’ve had. Were they primarily constructive and encouraging or critical and negative? Were they primarily transactional and “all business” or did you include the human element?
  2. Reflect on whether you allow yourself to take your bad moods and bad days out on people — If so, you are forming negative emotional associations in others, including distrust.
  3. Learn from the positive and negative Pavlov Bells in your life — Reflect on people who you find to be positive Pavlov Bell to you, and those you find to be a negative Pavlov’s Bell. Examine what each has done to create that response in you. Then reflect on your interactions with your direct reports, peers, and superiors. See if you do any of the things your negative Pavlov Bell people do with you. See if there are positive things your positive Pavlov Bell people do with you, which you can apply in your relationships.
  4. For your challenging relationships, put a positive Pavlov Bell plan into action — For those people you find difficult or with whom you have conflict, consciously look for opportunities to engage them in positive interactions or to show goodwill by doing something kind, generous, or thoughtful. This will help neutralize the negative emotional associations they have to you.
  5. Keep it sincere — Keep in mind, being a positive Pavlov Bell isn’t about pretending to be friends with someone you don’t like. It’s about recognizing that how you affect others has a big effect in your life, and consciously choosing to make that effect as positive as possible. It’s also choosing to demonstrate informal leadership.

By modeling productive, mature, evolved ways of interacting, you increase the odds that others will do the same.  The more people in your company act in ways that make them a positive Pavlov Bell to others, the more positive and productive your workplace culture becomes.

David Lee is the founder and principal of HumanNature@work and the creator of Stories That Change. He's an internationally recognized authority on organizational and managerial practices that optimize employee performance, morale, and engagement. He is also the author of "Managing Employee Stress and Safety," as well over 100 articles and book chapters. You can download more of his articles at HumanNature@work, contact him at david@humannatureatwork.com, or follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/humannaturework.

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