We all know contagious diseases can be a scary situation to deal with, especially in light of a constantly morphing seasonal flu, SARS, and Ebola! Oh, my! These are very serious issues that many agencies are developing training around to keep their providers and patients safe.
While we are not trying to downplay these infectious and sometime deadly diseases, consider something that you may not be conscious of and that is just as toxic to the morale of your staff, membership and organization? We’re talking about attitudes!
It is common these days to hear people promote the power of a positive or an optimistic attitude. In our experience, the majority of people think it’s a good idea to have a positive attitude however, these same people are usually unconscious to their own attitude and how it impacts others. You might even be thinking we are not talking to you but we are.
You, the one reading this article, we are talking to you!
A lot of EMS leaders that we have worked with complain about the attitudes of their staff and/or members. These leaders recognize that positive attitudes are critical to the organization running effectively yet these leaders fail to even consider their own attitudes are the cause or at least a major influence on the attitudes of their subordinates. Whatever the pervasive attitude of the leaders of an organization is, it has a ripple effect on the rest of the organization because attitudes are contagious. Want a more positive organization, then you need to work on your attitude first and foremost!
Self-awareness is key to changing your attitude. Most people are not cognizant of their own facial expression, tone of voice, body language and underlying beliefs/opinions when they are communicating. All of these are conveyed louder than the words you are saying.
To become more self-aware ask yourself these questions:
- When you walk into a room, what does your presentation say about you? Are you slumped over or do you have a confident, positive posture?
- Are you smiling or scowling? (FYI, there are no neutral facial expressions. A blank facial expression is most often interpreted as negative.)
- How is your tone of voice? Are you “Eeyore-like” gloom and doom or are you upbeat and encouraging?
- Are you abrupt and blunt or are you considerate and respectful?
- What is your inner dialogue saying? Are you expecting the worst or are you open to things working out? Do you see work as one damned thing after another or are you excited by the challenges and learning potential?
Negativity runs rampant in organizations in large part because it is more acceptable to be negative than positive. Negativity is often seen as realistic where positivity is interpreted as unrealistic and “Polly Anna-ish”. Positive, upbeat individuals can get labeled as “brown-nosers” or accused of trying to “suck up” where negative, nay sayers are likely to get cheered and supported by the group. As a leader, your job is to protect the positive people from the negative storm; make sure it is safe to offer affirmative, constructive suggestions. Do not accept or go into agreement with the premise of the negative comments. This negativity is coming from past experience and will be a self-fulfilling prophecy unless questioned.
If you want to cause lasting positive change in your organization and create an environment that attracts rather than repels people then you MUST be mindful of the attitude you are spreading and make a concerted effort to change it for the better.