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Why Positive Encouragement Works Better Than Criticism

Why Positive Encouragement Works Better Than Criticism | Leadership for Social Impact | Scoop.it
According to science, it's good to be the nice guy. (AGREE 100% RT "@AMAnet: Why Positive Encouragement Works Better Than Criticism.
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Why Positive Encouragement Works Better Than Criticism-Belle Beth Cooper

Why Positive Encouragement Works Better Than Criticism-Belle Beth Cooper | Leadership for Social Impact | Scoop.it

I’ve written about positivity before, in terms of cultivating a positive outlook for yourself. What I want to write about today is cultivating positivity in your workplace, particularly if you’re a leader. By focusing on positive interactions with your employees and encouraging an upbeat emotional state as often as possible, you’ll be more likely to have a happy, productive and efficient team.

 

HOW POSITIVITY AFFECTS OUR BRAINS

 

To start with, let’s look at how positive and negative emotions work in our brains, and what we can learn from that.

 

Positive emotions generally work in an opposite way to negative emotions. So, while emotions like fear, anxiety, stress and anger narrow our focus, inhibit our concentration and decrease our cognitive abilities, positive emotions can do the opposite. When we’re feeling upbeat and happy, we’re more likely to have an inclusive focus than a self-centered outlook, and to perform better on cognitively demanding tasks.

 

That is why exercising often makes us happier, especially if we choose to go for a demanding work-out.

 

In the face of negative events, our brains struggle to perform at their highest--or even normal--capacity. Our prefrontal cortex, the brain’s “executive center” is pushed aside so the amygdala can take over and prepare the body for crisis.

 

This shift in control to the low road favors automatic habits, as the amygdala draws on knee-jerk responses to save us.

When we’re stressed or scared, for instance, we struggle to think clearly, to coordinate well with others, to take in new information and to come up with new ideas. Even existing routines suffer, as our concentration is taken over by our negative emotions.

 

The more intense the pressure, the more our performance and thinking will suffer.

 

In his book Social Intelligence: The New Science of Human Relationships, Daniel Golemanexplains that heightened prefrontal activity, which is associated with positive emotions, enhances mental abilities such as “creative thinking, cognitive flexibility, and the processing of information.” The left prefrontal area of our brains, which lights up with activity when we’re in a positive mood, is also associated with reminding us of the good feelings we’ll have when we reach a long-term goal.

 

Here is a break-down of where in the brain our positive emotions arise, which tends to be in the Amygdala. Interestingly, in an experiment from Duke University, for Young Adults (YA) have more activity in the left Amygdala, whereas as we age and turn into Old Adults (OA), our place for positivity moves to the right Amygdala:

Goleman’s book Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence also discusses positivity and how it affects us. Goleman explains how positivity is measured at a neural level, which involves looking at the length of time we can maintain a positive outlook after something good happens. In a study of participants with depression, control subjects with no mental illness were able to hold onto positive feelings for much longer than those with symptoms of depression.

POSITIVE ENCOURAGEMENT AND COMMUNICATION

The way leaders use positivity when communicating with employees can make a huge impact on their emotional well-being and their performance. I was really surprised how big the impact of these interactions can be.

 

Goleman looked at several ways this can happen in Social Intelligence.

In one experiment, the emotional tone of a leader delivering news to an employee made more impact that the news itself. When negative feedback was delivered with a warm tone, the employees usually rated the interaction positively. On the other hand, good news, such as achieving a goal, delivered with a negative tone would leave employees feeling bad.

 

The emotional state of a leader can rub off on employees even when they’re not sharing feedback specifically. Just being more upbeat can improve the emotional state of your employees, as well as helping them to be more efficient and coordinate better.

 

Employees are also more likely to remember negative interactions than positive ones, and to spread the negativity among other employees.

When sharing feedback with employees, negatively-focused discussions are more likely to increase feelings of guilt, fear and anxiety. As I mentioned earlier, these emotions work against our cognitive abilities, forcing us into a spiral of being stressed about the need to improve, while our brains are too busy being stressed for us to actually improve.

 

In Focus, Goleman looked at how talking about positive goals and dreams can be a better way to encourage employess. Richard Boyatzis, a psychologist at Case Western Reserve University explained that focusing on what someone needs to do to “fix” themselves will effectively close them down to new possibilities or ideas.

 

Boyatzis did an experiment on college students, scanning their brains during interviews about college life. For one group, the interviews focused on positive outlooks--where they hoped to be in ten years, and what they wanted to gain from college. The other group had a negatively-focused interview where they talked about the stresses and fears of college life, struggles in their performance and workload and troubles in making new friends.

 

As you might expect, the areas of the brain related to negative emotions like anxiety and sadness were more often activated during the negative interviews. During the positive interviews, more activity was seen in the brain’s reward circuitry and areas related to happy memories and positive emotions.

 

A conversation that starts with a person’s dreams and hopes can lead to a learning path yielding that vision.

 

Marcial Losada, and organizational psychologist, found in studying the emotions of high-performing business teams that the most effective teams had at least 2.9 good feelings for every negative moment.

No doubt, we can’t avoid all negative moments, but adding enough positive ones to offset those that trouble us can make us happier and more productive.

POSITIVE LEADERSHIP--THREE THINGS TO FOCUS ON

Improving the positive ratio of your own team can be as simple as making some important changes to your own leadership approaches.

 

1. The two most important states: Listening and show empathy

Showing empathy to your employees helps them to develop a stable base at work, so they can feel comfortable to explore and take risks. This can lead to more creativity and better problem-solving within your team.

If we look at some of the best interviewers in the world and how they listen, we can quickly see how well trained they have their own sense of empathy.

 

Boyatzis found in his research that the part of our brains that focuses on goals actually inhibits the part that helps us to understand and empathize with others.

 

The most successful leaders cycle back and forth between these within seconds.

 

2. A caring boss is more important than what you earn

 

Making your employees feel heard and understood can actually improve their physical health as well as their mental well-being:

 

Workers who feel unfairly criticized, or whose boss will not listen to their problems, have a rate of coronary heart disease 30 percent higher than those who feel treated fairly.

Simply listening to your employees helps them to offload their negative feelings and release tension. Carrying around anxiety or frustration can hinder an employee’s performance, so try to tap into how they’re feeling on a regular basis.

 

In a survey of employees at seven hundred companies, the majority said that a caring boss was more important to them than how much they earned.

 

3. Make interpersonal chemistry a priority

 

Our sense of engagement and satisfaction at work results in large part from the hundreds and hundreds of daily interactions we have while there, whether with a supervisor, colleagues, or customers.

It’s no secret that culture is a huge part of how we hire new employees at Buffer. Making a priority of how well your employees get along is something I hadn’t heard much before, though, and I like this idea a lot. Especially in bigger teams, where you may not interact with each employee as often, ensuring that there is positive chemistry among team members could make a big difference to your overall company culture.

 

The accumulation and frequency of positive versus negative moments largely determines our satisfaction and ability to perform; small exchanges--a compliment on work well done, a word of support after a setback--add up to how we feel on the job.

 

 


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Jim Manske's curator insight, January 21, 2014 9:25 PM

Reading this reminds me of a bumber sticker I once saw in Lahaina:  "Just Say No To Negativity!"

Jennifer Colin's curator insight, October 24, 2015 6:28 PM

This a very intriguing and important finding for those of us who may soon be in a leadership position, and to those who are already leading. The article explains that while emotions such as fear, anxiety, stress, and anger narrow our focus, inhibit our concentration, and decrease our cognitive abilities, positive emotions can do the opposite. "When we’re feeling upbeat and happy, we’re more likely to have an inclusive focus than a self-centered outlook, and to perform better on cognitively demanding tasks."  This is crucial to understand when we are providing feedback to our teachers.  Of course, we should not sugarcoat everything we say, or neglect to let them know in which areas they should work to improve, but positive ways to frame this information should be utilized when possible.  After all, the morale of staff is a big piece of a school's success.  If an administrator can impact that in a positive way, it can spread to the entire school culture and make the school a place everyone wants to be.

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How to Become a Values-Based Leader

How to Become a Values-Based Leader | Leadership for Social Impact | Scoop.it

Values-based leadership is the solution for today’s leaders, says Harry Kraemer, the former CEO of Baxter International and professor of management and strategy at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management.


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Zermatt Summit's curator insight, October 30, 2013 8:32 AM

Values-based leadership is the solution for today’s leaders, says Harry Kraemer, the former CEO of Baxter International and professor of management and strategy at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management.

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A Five-Step Process That Can Help Social Enterprises Succeed

In their e-book titled, The Social Entrepreneur's Playbook, Ian MacMillan, a Wharton management professor, and James Thompson, director of the Wharton Social...
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Reality 101 For Dreamers: Four Critical Lessons For Social Entrepreneurs

Reality 101 For Dreamers: Four Critical Lessons For Social Entrepreneurs | Leadership for Social Impact | Scoop.it
Five years ago, I left the corporate world to pursue a social venture of my own - in this instance, a small consulting firm that chooses its clients carefully and emphasizes long, deep engagements and measurable social impact.
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The Most Undervalued Leadership Traits Of Women - Forbes

The Most Undervalued Leadership Traits Of Women - Forbes | Leadership for Social Impact | Scoop.it
Forbes
The Most Undervalued Leadership Traits Of Women
Forbes
It's impossible to respect, value and admire great leadership if you can't identify what makes a leader great.
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Devoted to improving life for the disabled

Devoted to improving life for the disabled | Leadership for Social Impact | Scoop.it
ONE of the biggest social schemes in Australia's history started with much fanfare last year but the man credited with designing it shirked the spotlight.
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Five tips for becoming a social entrepreneur in 2014

Five tips for becoming a social entrepreneur in 2014 | Leadership for Social Impact | Scoop.it
Investigate business incubators and be prepared to embrace constant change are among Zack Rosenberg's top tips (RT @normagarza: Five tips for becoming a social entrepreneur in 2014 http://t.co/z3CPp9q285...
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10 Essential Qualities of a New Paradigm Social Entrepreneur | The 7 Graces of Marketing - ethical marketing for social entrepreneurs

10 Essential Qualities of a New Paradigm Social Entrepreneur | The 7 Graces of Marketing - ethical marketing for social entrepreneurs | Leadership for Social Impact | Scoop.it
Can a business owner be a force for positive social change? Lynn Serafinn describes 10 surprising personality traits of powerful, visionary entrepreneurs. (Why new paradigm thinkers believe enterprise is part of the SOLUTION.
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Richard Branson and Jochen Zeitz launch the B Team challenge

Richard Branson and Jochen Zeitz launch the B Team challenge | Leadership for Social Impact | Scoop.it
Virgin's Branson and former Puma CEO Zeitz announce a global collaboration of business leaders tasked with scaling up new, sustainable business models
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Eco-spirituality: towards a values-based economic structure

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Corporate visions of sustainability focus on material prosperity – but leaders must respect the soul as well as the soil, writes Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee
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Bain at One Young World – On becoming an effective leader of ...

Bain at One Young World – On becoming an effective leader of ... | Leadership for Social Impact | Scoop.it
One exciting thing about the conference was that we weren't caught up in just discussing the various social issues present in society, but managed to spend a lot of time discussing approaches taken by leaders to address ...
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New Walden University Study Reveals Six Distinct Types of Social Change ... - Canada NewsWire (press release)

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MINNEAPOLIS, Dec.
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Graduate careers: why I chose social enterprise over the corporate world

Graduate careers: why I chose social enterprise over the corporate world | Leadership for Social Impact | Scoop.it
The increasing risks of the conventional job market mean there's even more reason for graduates to take their own risks, argues Sanum Jain
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Ethical Leadership, Sustainability and CSR: Elements of ethical leadership development

Ethical Leadership, Sustainability and CSR: Elements of ethical leadership development | Leadership for Social Impact | Scoop.it
Ethical leaders do the right thing because its the right thing to do– not because others are watching http://t.co/YztziL5jES via @RobinDally

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Zermatt Summit's curator insight, July 26, 2013 6:56 AM

This is very close to the Zermatt Summit's Declaration on the Common Good

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7 ways to be an ethical leader - Mother Nature Network

7 ways to be an ethical leader - Mother Nature Network | Leadership for Social Impact | Scoop.it
7 ways to be an ethical leader Mother Nature Network In her new book "7 Lenses: Learning the Principles and Practices of Ethical Leadership (Leading in Context, 2013)," author Linda Fisher Thornton says getting employees to act ethically in the...

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Toughen up, bureaucrats: the tide is fast turning - Brisbane Times

Toughen up, bureaucrats: the tide is fast turning - Brisbane Times | Leadership for Social Impact | Scoop.it
Toughen up, bureaucrats: the tide is fast turning
Brisbane Times
Stephen Bartos. Institutional change The public service needs leaders who value risk, innovation and engagement with the outside world.
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Lessons from a seasoned serial social entrepreneur - Virgin.com

Lessons from a seasoned serial social entrepreneur - Virgin.com | Leadership for Social Impact | Scoop.it
The ‘I’m going to do things differently’-moment “I was about 19, standing in a field, and I remember thinking: as much as I love farming in Wales, I just don’t think I am cut out for this.
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Grand Designs for Social Change - Pro Bono Australia

Grand Designs for Social Change - Pro Bono Australia | Leadership for Social Impact | Scoop.it
Grand Designs for Social Change
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Dedicated to creating social change around the world, engineer Lizzie Brown has gone from a Not for Profit volunteer to a Not for Profit Chief Executive Officer.
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Why Leadership Is About Dignity

Why Leadership Is About Dignity | Leadership for Social Impact | Scoop.it
“A bold new way of tackling poverty that’s about dignity, not dependence and choice, not charity.” When I first read that on Acumen.org, I thought beyond poverty.
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Social Entrepreneur´s Journey Stage 1: Discomfort and the passion quest | Leadership for Social Impact | Scoop.it
Feeling it's time for a change? We all know that feeling. Dis-comfort the mover & shaker of new things to come. http://t.co/Ia5nRlUmwf
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We will only create prosperity within planetary boundaries if we start to really believe it is possible, writes Jo Confino
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