Developing a Positive Response to Negative Events

I recently spoke with a company that was struggling through a tough time. They’d lost customers, key employees and money. I was asked to help restore what was lost but, before I could do that, I had to address their greatest loss, that being hope. The negative events had sapped their vision of a brighter future again. What was worse, the organization was in an all-out panic which was producing fatalistic attitudes, worse than the truth itself. I knew that if they stayed focused on the negative they’d only get more of the same which eventually wouldn’t end well. They would fulfill their prophetic thoughts.

Panic stems from a feeling of no control. When we lose control we feel a strong need to regain it. Unfortunately, much of what affects us is out of our control. Our response then should not be to control what we can’t, but to respond to the situation with what we can control, that being us.

The first step in that process is to control our thoughts and words. There are doom-and-gloom people, sometimes even leaders, who for their own reasons sap others of hope. The issue is more complex though than just “looking on the bright side of things.” There are specific approaches to changing how we think and also wrong ways to do it.

The first step is to be careful who you listen to starting with yourself. This is important because it’s very easy to let others determine what we believe. A negative narrative we run ourselves can spoil a recovery. When we think the worst case long enough we lose the spirit to fight on. It’s called learned helplessness. We also give up on engaging the creativity and problem-solving abilities that are inherently human and present in every organization. As a leader, you can poison an entire organization with the wrong words. A hopeless attitude is a dangerous attitude, no matter how “real” the facts might seem.

When we frame our thoughts properly we create an attitude of resilience. The ability to bounce back from life’s downturns is a powerful tool for success. The ability to respond effectively in times of upheaval requires honesty and courage. Leaders are not successful in spite of their setbacks, they are successful because of them. Real leaders embrace their setbacks and learn from them. They grow smarter, tougher and more resilient. While others linger in defeat and negative thought, the resilient leader sees beyond the current reality to a better and brighter future.

Being resilient requires courage, courage to face the brutal facts of the situation and to push ahead when you may be disappointed or embarrassed. Resilient leaders have to build an attitude of optimism even when it doesn’t feel natural. It’s the organizational fuel for a recovery. Leaders must operate efficaciously with a positive expectancy knowing that, despite their circumstances, they can figure out and overcome the obstacles. Their goal is not just to bounce back, but to bounce forward to a better position.

 The most successful companies and leaders all experience setbacks or problems, but they see them as temporary. Sometimes the best ideas emerge from our toughest situations. As a resilient leader, you must also inspire others to participate. It’s an attitude that draws people together. The sense of a community working together to solve a problem is a powerful force. There are few problems an inspired team cannot accomplish when working together, no matter how large the obstacle.

A lot of what looks like luck isn’t luck at all. It’s the result of the right attitude. Good business practice tells us that we can only change what’s within our control. But often we fail to change the most important aspect of business, one we have 100% control over, that being our attitude. For my client, it would be wrong to not take very seriously their circumstances. But despite those conditions and how they felt, an attitude of hope in the face of their despair would not have been foolish either. If you look for reasons to be negative, you will find them. However, if you choose to look for reasons for hope, you’ll easily find them as well.

If you’ve been looking at reality with a glass-half-full attitude and want to try a change of attitude for better results, reach out to me through my contact info on our website or the “contact us” tab on this page.

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