I recently spoke at a SHRM conference on EQ in the workplace and decided to do something different. At one point in the speech, I asked the following: Raise your hand if you wake up every morning and wish for negative experiences to happen to you. I got a chuckle out of that as, obviously, no one raised their hands. I then asked: Raise your hand if you have negative experiences every day from something as mundane as traffic on your way to work to more complex experiences like finding out that your spouse just got laid off. And this time, everyone raised their hands.
My point was that no one willingly makes the choice to be challenged, to have to look within and explore our IQ, EQ, and values. Life simply does that for us – it presents us with opportunities to grow and learn. The old adage is that some of us learn from our experiences and others never recover. Personal growth is about embracing those challenges that occur every day and practicing things you have heard, your have read about, you have been trained on, you want to be better at… Think of all the experiences each day that you can personally grow from by simply exploring the situation in this curious manner. The personal growth you will experience will be dramatic compared to those who choose to do what most of do – ignoring challenges and simply moving on to the next challenge, only to ignore that too (from a learning perspective).
Later I asked the audience whose responsibility it would be if YOU had just experienced a negative experience and knew that your subsequent performance would be compromised as a result. The answer again is obvious – it is your responsibility. But what if you are a leader or manager and you see someone on your team experiencing a negative state? As a leader, are you to leave it to that person to sort through it by himself or herself? I would argue NO. Instead, ask yourself how you can dilute the situation by inducing positivity when an employee or even an entire team seems to be stuck in a negative state. How can you transform the moment into a positive one so that both the employee and your organization can perform better? This proactive leadership is never more important than now, when there seems to be so many negative experiences, either implicit or explicit, in our daily lives.
As a leader, this week I urge you to be proactive – pay close emotional attention to people and note their states. Make attempts to proactively transform your environment – even if it’s just for the moment or just for the day. These positive experiences will pile up and be a great source of strength, credibility, and success tomorrow and in the future.