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Implementing the power of positivity – 3 ways it can change the way you work

CH2M’s Chief Human Resources Officer Shelie Gustafson is passionate about fostering a unique and inclusive culture that attracts the industry’s best talent. Here’s her take on practicing positivity.

CH2M’s Chief Human Resources Officer Shelie Gustafson is passionate about fostering a unique and inclusive culture that attracts the industry’s best talent – those who are inspired and committed to solving the world’s greatest challenges. Here’s her take on practicing positivity.

I’m a strong believer in the power of positivity. Years ago I read a book that really stuck with me. It is called, “Bringing out the Best in People,” by Aubrey Daniels, and it describes the premise of applying the power of positive reinforcement.

It got me thinking.

What would happen if every leader, in every interaction approached it with the intent to bring out the best in the others? Would it change relationships? Would it change the work environment? Would it increase employee engagement and retention?

I’ve put some items into practice, and over time I learned that if managers practiced positivity, it would also reflect in their employees.

  1. Assume positive intent. Assume that our coworkers are operating and acting with the best interest of the company and their colleagues in mind, rather than assume ill intent. It is easy to think that people have it out for others when, in fact, they may just be approaching the issue from a different viewpoint.
  2. Look for the positive in others. A manager once complained to me that her direct report was negative about every situation. I suggested to the manager that the next time she talks with the employee to listen for something positive, and when she heard something positive to ask the employee to expand on it. The conversation then took on a different flavor, and the manager and employee engaged in a long, meaningful conversation. This was just the beginning of a renewed and positive relationship.
  3. Reinforce positive behaviors. In the 1950s, BF Skinner developed the theory of operant conditioning – the idea that behavior is determined by its consequences. This theory confirmed people would repeat behavior if it was immediately reinforced through praise, recognition and appreciation. This research has been confirmed many times and some have suggested that there is a “magic ratio” of five positive comments to every one negative or corrective comment. I’ve learned that by focusing on the positive that it has helped my teams tap into their passion and creativity.

Have you ever had a barista with a friendly smile and positive comment kick-start your day? Leaders can set the tone for their entire team. A leader who is positive, seeks the positive and reinforces the positive will ultimately become a talent magnet where employees feel included, know they are valued and will thrive in their career.

Interested in being a part of a collaborative team that focuses on the positive? Check out the open positions to see where you may fit in with our global team!

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