In today’s competitive economy, hiring people based on their personality traits and soft skills, and not just their level of experience and hard skills, can be a game-changer in business. A growing number of business leaders hold the opinion that it is better to, “hire for attitude and train for skills.”  Hiring employees based on their attitude increases the likelihood that they will possess the necessary drive and commitment to contribute to your business’s growth.  


What is a positive mental attitude? 

A positive attitude, or mindset, means approaching every situation and challenge in life with optimism.  This positive attitude goes hand in hand with expressing hope, displaying courage and showing kindness. It means not giving in to negativity and hopelessness, even in difficult situations.  


Why is a positive attitude important? 

The human mind is so powerful that our mindset can affect our health, our performance in mental and physical challenges, our ability to relate to others and ultimately our life outcomes.  


Is a positive attitude the outcome of nature or nurture?  

Some social scientists believe that having a positive attitude is an inborn personality trait, while others believe it is a learned behaviour.  After studying more than 2000 pairs of identical twins, research psychologist and University of California professor of psychology, Sonja Lyubomirsky* (who has devoted the bulk of her research career to studying human happiness) has reached the conclusion that a positive attitude is almost exactly 50-50 when it comes to being the product of both nature and nurture.  


How can leaders nurture a positive attitude in their people? 

Positive thinking can also be defined as the method people use to achieve health and happiness. The great news for employers is that they can do a lot to influence the environmental impact on their employees’ positive attitude and happiness in the workplace.  

Here are 3 ways to nurture positivity in the workplace: 

1. Start the week on a positive note 

Because relationships are such a key element to human happiness, it is important to ensure managers and their team members have adequate time to get to know each other and build strong bonds. Do not wait until the end of the week! Consider hosting a standing or virtual Monday morning meeting to foster community.  

  • Check in on how everyone’s weekends went.  
  • Nominate a team member who deserves to be recognised.  
  • Share company-wide updates and recent wins, then preview plans for the week.  
  • Designate time to solicit open feedback so employees feel heard and valued.  
  • Regularly carve out a few minutes for innovation and future planning as a team before discussing practical issues so that your team comes to expect it and look forward to it. Ask open-ended vision starter questions like: 
    • Where do you see our company in 5 years?  
    • What legacy do you hope to leave in your role?  
    • What emerging needs could our business get ahead of?  
  • Follow up on ideas with targeted questions that will lead to realising the vision:  
    • What resources might advance that idea?  
    • Which competitors are trying that tactic? 
    • How could we test aspects of that concept right now?  

2. Encourage work-life balance 

  • Actively encourage the habit of your team members working to complete work on a Friday to alleviate a stressful start to the following week. Encourage employees to get a jump on their deadlines by completing one or two Monday tasks on a Friday afternoon.  
  • When necessary, gather the team together to work hard at finishing a project so that they can start the weekend more relaxed. 
  • Make it company policy that sending and answering company emails and messages between Friday afternoon and Monday morning is not permissible. 
  • If it is appropriate and do-able, think about allowing your employees to work from home one or two Mondays a month. 
  • Add a quarterly “mental health day” to employees’ annual paid leave allowance, where employees – workload and deadlines permitting – can take the day off at short notice without having to make a lame excuse for their absence.  

 3. Promote a sense of freedom through flexibility 

Employees today consider both their jobs and their personal lives to be equal priorities. When employees have greater flexibility at work, they experience greater freedom to balance their professional and personal lives. This employee autonomy positively impacts job satisfaction and engagement levels. Flexible working hours allow each employee to meet their personal responsibilities, while putting in quality time to manage and complete work projects. When employees are granted the freedom to work according to their ideal schedule, they are generally way more focused and productive. This flexibility entails leaders managing their employees’ output rather than policing their hours.  


The benefits of nurturing a positive attitude 

Happiness at work is far more than enjoying working with employees who wear a smile or show a positive attitude. It should be seen as the foundation upon which business success is built – as a powerful driver of excellence that leads to sustained business performance and increased revenue growth.  

  • From the employee perspective, happy employees are less stressed. They enjoy what they do and feel pride and accomplishment in their work. This creates a sense of meaning that feeds into an upward spiral in that their sense of satisfaction promotes wellbeing, which in turn boosts productivity. 
  • From a business perspective, according to an interview involving 32,000 individuals conducted by the iOpener Institute in Oxford, UK the researchers concluded that happy workers: 
    • take just one-tenth as much leave as less happy workers,  
    • are six times more energised,  
    • intend to stay twice as long in their job, and  
    • are twice as productive. 

Over to you for sharing your comments and experiences.

About the Author: Kerstin Jatho

Kerstin is the senior transformational coach and team development facilitator for 4Seeds Consulting. She is also the author of Growing Butterfly Wings, a book on applying positive psychology principles during a lengthy recovery. Her passion is to develop people-centred organisations where people thrive and achieve their potential in the workplace. You can find Kerstin on LinkedIn, Soundcloud, YouTube and Facebook.

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