“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!” – right? 

Well, while this old adage may ring true in some circumstances, experts feel it may not be as useful in the workplace. Unfortunately, in practice, many companies are still focused on avoiding negative behaviors, as opposed to actively encouraging positive behaviors. For example, managers often spend time correcting employees for “bad” behaviors but they don’t spend nearly enough time supporting and rewarding employees for good behaviors. Just look at the recent Uber scandal. While the company has canned folks who were accused of harassment and made statements about harassment not being tolerated, they have yet to provide clarity about what a positive path forward might look like.  The result of this culture of avoiding the “bad” instead of boosting the “good” is that employees often know what not to do – but they are lost when trying to figure out what specific behaviors will actually drive success.

How do you drive positive workplace behaviors?

Expert Kim Cameron of the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business has been studying the effects of positive workplace cultures for decades. The results of his work show that when employees show more compassion  toward one another and are encouraged to do the right thing, they feel connected to a deeper meaning through their work. This connection to work on a deeper level – beyond just a paycheck – enhances employee well-being and the bottom line. It sounds easy, but how can you and your colleagues enact this in practice?

One of my favorite tips that helps to enhance gratitude and recognition at work is the “three coins” trick. If you keep three coins in your pocket (or in a purse, desk drawer, etc.) and move each coin to the other pocket (or compartment in the purse, another desk drawer, etc.), every time you provide positive reinforcement to another employee, you will triple your positivity automatically. While this action seems simple, employees who practice gratitude tend to have teams that are healthier, happier and more productive – using the coin trick might sound silly, but the impact can be immense.

How do you know which behaviors will drive success?

This all rests on the idea that you know which behaviors are key to success though – and determining whether or not that’s the case is no small feat. However, it can be done. Chip and Dan Heath, in their book “Switch”, provide the idea of a “destination postcard”. While it sounds like a souvenir you might bring back from vacation, a destination postcard is a powerful tool that you can use to envision what positive behaviors might look like. A destination postcard can be created by envisioning what your workplace would look like if things were functioning perfectly – what would people be doing? How would it feel there? What would people be saying to one another? What would the results look like? Starting to answer these questions can help you to understand the behaviors that need to be present in order for your organization to achieve its goals. Trying to be as specific as possible – not thinking about general ideas or trends in behaviors, but actual, trainable behaviors – will help to make your vision come true.

How to get started creating a positive culture today

While this sounds like a tall order, the answers may already be right under your nose. Because we tend to focus on problem areas, instead of focusing on places in which things are working, there may be bright spots within your current organization where hints of these behaviors and attitudes already exist. Deciding to focus on the good within your organization can give you the key to creating more of that good in other areas of the workplace. What positive behaviors are you missing when you’re focusing on looking for what people are doing wrong? Shifting your mindset from fixing what is broken to creating abundance at work helps you to open your eyes to what is good that is happening around you – and can give you some really great ideas about how to create more of that goodness on a broader scale.

A focus on wellness, instead of avoiding illness, is good for organizations and good for employees in general. Think about it. Just because you never got really sick this year doesn’t mean you’re as healthy as you might be – in fact, compared to someone who just ran a half marathon, you might have a long way to go. And if you’re the person who ran the half marathon – how about a full marathon? The same is true for your organization – just because nothing majorly bad has happened this year, doesn’t mean you are achieving your full potential. When it comes to focusing on continuous improvement through positivity, instead of maintaining the status quo by avoiding negativity, the possibilities are endless. So, if it isn’t broken – fix it anyway.

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