|For about a year now, we have been bombarded with stories of how bad things are. House prices are falling, people are being made redundant and businesses are going to the wall.
It would be easy to think that the forces of the universe were lining up against us and surviving this maelstrom was a matter of luck, outside our individual or business control.
But throughout history and across cultures there are stories of those who have persisted in adversity and made light of setbacks that crush others. And in every downturn there are businesses that see new ways of doing things, new opportunities, and thrive despite the gloom.
Your business can be one of those success stories, and you can be one of those individuals – but you may have to change the way you think and the way you run your business.
The human mind is wired to accent the negative, which helped our ancestors prepare for and survive the hardships of their environment. But now, with fewer sabre-tooth tigers to avoid, paying lots of attention to things that could go wrong means you are also overlooking the things that are going well and all the possibilities for business growth.
Focusing on the negative drags down spirits, mood, and morale – and makes it more likely that the worst scenario will come true. Keep focusing on “how bad everything is” and your team’s motivation will drop like a stone. Then you miss critical deadlines, make poorer decisions and are less likely to put in the effort needed to win that next piece of business.
Overcoming this tendency takes time and effort, but it’s worth it, and it will make the difference between maybe just getting through the recession and thriving despite it.
Organisational psychologist Marcial Losada specialises in finding out what makes some companies function much better than others. Some of the things that have a big effect on results seem almost too simple, but they work.
For instance, in high-performing enterprises compliments flow, effort and results are acknowledged, and people are constantly encouraged to be the best. Sadly, this is not an accurate description of many New Zealand businesses. Invariably the participants on mental toughness courses I lead describe organisations in which negative comments outnumber the positive ones.
A negative work environment encourages people to simply get through the day with minimum effort – it does not motivate them to excel, or to find creative answers to obstacles the business may be facing. Who can give their absolute best when the dominant theme is fault-finding?
Six steps to positive change: