TIPS & TOOLS, Article 2: "Testing Positive: Staying Upbeat in Hard Times"

TIPS & TOOLS, Article 2: "Testing Positive: Staying Upbeat in Hard Times"

Tips & Tools

Posted on March 23, 2020 by Greg Methvin


Testing Positive: Staying Upbeat in Hard Times

Getting extraordinary things done in extraordinary times requires A LOT of positive energy. These are extraordinary times. Upbeat leaders know the importance of energizing and inspiring others to push through tough challenges. They model an optimistic attitude, not by shallow cheerleading, but by stoking the fire within themselves first. 

That’s not easy when truckloads of bad news seem to be dumped at our doorstep each morning. So, how do you live with what Henry Van Dyke called “forward face and un-reluctant soul”? Here are four suggestions that may help:

Staff Meeting of One: Even when we decide to lead with positivity, we often need to deal with our inner negatives. Sometimes inner voices argue: “No one is going to take you seriously. You are the least positive person I know. Sometimes Bad is just Bad!” How do you quiet down those negative inner voices, even when they sound so convincing?

Instead of ignoring those voices, one executive I know calls an “Inner Board Meeting.” He begins each day having a conversation with the mental, emotional, physical and spiritual parts of himself…his “personal board of directors.” He asks each board member to speak up and express how they are doing. His Mind dumps all its thoughts, strategies, doubts and worries.  His Emotions name what they are feeling, and his Body speaks up about what it needs today.

He lets each part have their say but no single voice dominates the meeting. He “chairs” the meeting so that he can address real concerns and move positively into his day without the internal noise. Calling this “staff meeting of one” keeps those inner voices from canceling out the positive directions you want to take.

Cultivating Gratitude: The positive leader is fully informed and faces the reality of circumstances, but never loses sight of the good things happening as well. Even in hard times, victories are occurring around us. People are stepping up in ways that can be acknowledged and celebrated. Little grace-moments are blooming that if noticed and appreciated, will fuel our enthusiasm and spark others to notice those things too. No one can be simultaneously bitter, pessimistic and deeply grateful at the same time. When do you carve out time to survey the daily good things that have happened and been gifted to you?

Replenishing Your Spiritual Capital: Positive energy requires fuel, and no matter how sunny your disposition may be, that fuel isn’t pumped from within ourselves. We need an outside source if we are going to consistently move in hopeful and helpful directions. We draw wisdom, comfort and guidance from our chosen faith traditions.Keep company with resilient, buoyant leaders, whether it is by reading great works and words of past heroes, following wise encouraging leaders through social media and podcasts, or picking up the phone to check in with forward-leaning friends.

Where are the spiritual reserves that will supply you for the long haul?

Relaxing and Recharging Daily: At my house, we’ve started an official “Happy Hour” where we stop working, set out some special snacks and drinks, turn up the tunes and enjoy one another’s company for a bit. No matter what has happened or may still happen during the day, when Happy Hour starts, worry, complaining, and grinding stops.

Presidential scholar and author, Doris Kearns Goodwin notes that during some of the most difficult days in our country’s history, our greatest leaders knew the importance of taking a break from the action. Abraham Lincoln went to the theater more than 100 times during the Civil War. Teddy Roosevelt exercised for two hours each day. FDR had a cocktail party most nights of the war, with one rule: No talking about the war. Each knew the value of slowing down and recharging if they were going to stand up to the challenges of their day.

Genuine enthusiasm doesn’t grow from a glued-on smile. And thanks to social distancing, no one would see it anyway. Part of the magic of great leadership is the ability to project optimism and confidence into other people. Remember, we can’t give what we don’t have, but we can find everything we need to lead in positive directions. Which one of these practices would help energize you most?

Until next time,

Onward and upward!