The front page of
The Indianapolis Star on Dec. 12 had its share of bad news. A quote from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said a lot: "I dread looking at Wall
Street tomorrow." The main local story? "Our struggling economy: Forecast grim for Indiana."
Later in the day, I happened to catch about 60 seconds of the national news and heard NBC anchor Brian Williams introduce
his next story with the words "despair," "crisis" and "depression."
However, the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back came when I finished the book "Buyology" (Martin Lindstrom—good
book, but far from great). The author made a compelling argument that the advertising industry, which spends billions each
year to influence our buying decisions, has now determined that the most powerful tool to influence behavior is fear.
If you aren’t depressed when you wake up in the morning, just grab your daily newspaper, turn on the TV, or listen to the
radio. You’ll wonder why you ever got out of bed.
If you’re like most leaders, your stress increases as you drive to work. And once you get to the office, 20 minutes of reviewing
negative e-mails and listening to phone messages doesn’t help the situation.
Then it happens. One of your direct reports pokes her head in the office and wonders if she can ask you a quick question.
You look up from your screen and before you can say a word, your expression screams: "The day is off to an awful start, the
economy is in the dumps, and I can’t imagine that I will have any interest in your question."
This employee has been influenced by the same negativity as the rest of society. She comes into work, stressed and apprehensive
about her job and her performance. She is popping into your office for two reasons: to get an answer to a question and to
test your mood to see what kind of day it will be in the office.
Whether you believe it or not, your response—even if it’s, "Please stop by later"—plays a huge role in the productivity of
the office, your sales and, most important, your profit.
Today, your team members are drowning in negativity and they need someone to inspire some hope into their day. If you consider
the fact that they will spend the majority of their waking hours at work, that someone is their boss, manager or supervisor.
That someone is you.
If your initial response to this reasoning is, "If they want a cheerleader, they had better go somewhere else," I would recommend
you step into a time machine and take yourself back to the 1950s, where your leadership style is better suited.
It’s 2008, and your most valuable asset and investment is always people. These people need a positive leader who can confidently
convey the following message:
"We’re going to be OK. It’s going to require that we work harder and smarter than ever before, but we will thrive in this
I recognize that some days—in fact, maybe in your industry it’s most days—you don’t believe that you’re going to be OK. I’ve
got some simple advice: Fake it until you do believe.
Assuming that you’d rather not fake it forever, here are a few tips to help you improve your attitude. First, eliminate the
national news from your daily schedule. It’s built on the premise that the average viewer is intellectually lazy and will
only pay attention if they are "shocked" by something, and that something is almost always negative.
Second, read something positive or listen to a positive message every single day. You’d be amazed at how 10 minutes of an
inspirational book can change your outlook. Finally, spend a few minutes each day gratefully reviewing all that you have going
for you. If this is difficult for you, go online and Google the word "poverty."
Next, it’s time to inspire your staff.
As I mentioned before, I recognize that most of the time you won’t feel like blasting "Eye of the Tiger" and running around
the office high-fiving everyone. However, there are some simple things you can do to set a positive tone in your office. Here
are four that you can easily implement next week.
•Smile. Your facial expression is far more important than what you say.
•Appreciate. Make it a priority to thank your staff for their contributions on a regular basis.
•Celebrate. Recognize the little victories. Every day, your company enjoys at least one win. Share it with everyone.
•Subscribe to inspiration. There are a bunch of free services out there that will send you a regular inspirational message.
Subscribe to one and then forward it with your own thoughts to your staff.
Next year will be filled with both challenges and opportunities. It’s your responsibility to help your staff focus on the
opportunities. The bottom line depends on it.
McClanahan is president of ReachMore Strategies, a leadership-training and management-consulting firm. He can be reached at
576-8492 or email@example.com.