Yes, she brought leadership, creativity, and an array of skills critical to the assignment, but what made a difference every single day were her energy, smile and great attitude.
That's right. It wasn't her hard skills that transformed the office. It was optimism and positivity. She always had time and a smile for everyone and never let a tough day get her down. The best part was her attitude was infectious and changed the tone of the workplace.
Not everyone can maintain the same high energy and great attitude of my former co-worker, but there is a smart career lesson here. You don't have to be the office cheerleader, but staying focused on solutions and looking at the glass as more than half full can make work more enjoyable and less stressful. The power of "Yes" and positive energy can also pay big dividends.
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Three significant moments
There have been three significant times when I learned lessons about optimism that shaped my career and made me a stronger professional.
Years ago I was a semi-permanent freelancer working alongside two other highly skilled people. The three of us shared a good-natured competitive rivalry to produce the best work. However, I noticed I was almost always picked for tough assignments as well as lots of nights and weekends.
At one point I asked my boss why I was the one tasked with long hours. He responded, "You always say yes and you don't complain." While I didn't always love the extra work, I knew it helped me stand out so I eagerly took on any assignment. When my supervisor left for another job, the big boss called me immediately and told me I was getting promoted. There were several others just as qualified, but my willingness to say yes to the tough jobs and a positive attitude were what got me that promotion.
One of the first lessons I learned as a leader was how critical it was to stay positive. When I got negative, my team lost faith and focus. Projects suffered and progress slowed. When I was upbeat and optimistic, the team was right behind me giving everything they had and functioning on a much higher level. Few want to work for a negative boss and I learned that quickly. When people are counting on you for leadership, they want vision, a mission and someone to stand behind. Positive energy will get you there much faster.
Finally, an optimistic attitude will help you through the tough times. I've had two long periods of unemployment over the last few years and positive thinking is all that kept me going some days. Job search means getting blown off, ignored, rescheduled and turned down. It is easy to feel defeated. The only way to combat all that negative energy is to get up, get out and do it again with a smile and the faith that good things are right around the corner.
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Try baby steps
How do you make the change? You can't force it. You can't fake it. You can't just crank the positive attitude up to 11. Most of us lean to the negative side. Try baby steps. Turn it up one notch from your comfort zone and work from there. When you adjust to that level, turn it up again. Avoid Team Negative at work and when shoptalk turns ugly don't engage. It gets easier and more natural as you move forward. The best reward is your energy will have a positive impact on almost everyone around you.
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Check out more quotes on the virtues of positive thinking here.