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5 ways to build a positive work culture with the right words at the right time

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HR leaders and front-line managers: Don’t underestimate the power of a few kind words.

The right words at the right time can have a serious impact on how well teams perform and how effectively you can build a positive work culture.

Small start for positive work culture

Small shifts toward more positive communication can boost performance results by 25% and cut stress levels by 23%, according to research from Michelle Gielan, Founder and management consultant at GoodThink and author of Broadcasting Happiness.

Even better, a leader’s optimism is contagious — as long as you’re not simply handing out rose-colored glasses. An optimistic, solutions-focused outlook will catch on.

“People don’t actually see how incredibly influential they can be over the people in their lives,” says Gielan in the podcast, Built on Purpose. “When we make small changes to the messages we’re broadcasting to other people — as parents, as leaders, as friends — we actually can not only influence their mood, their approach to challenges and stresses while they’re in the midst of them.

“But also, those small changes influence nearly every single business and educations outcome we know how to track,” Gielan continues. “Communicating differently can fuel your team’s productivity by 31% in just three weeks.”

The point: These are small changes, not sweeping initiatives!

So here are four changes that build a more productive, positive workplace.

Use the ‘Power Lead’

Start conversations, emails and meetings with something positive and meaningful. It allows you to set the tone for the exchange — a powerful tool for leaders in almost any situation.

Taking a “Power Lead” doesn’t mean adding an artificially sweet twist to everything. It’s about putting everyone’s mind in the best possible place. People match moods, and will likely look for something positive to add to the good news or a success you share.

Ask ‘Leading Questions’

You can initiate or ignite more worthwhile conversations with “Leading Questions” in almost any setting. Ask the right one and you can help motivate people by getting them to think about positive successes, strengths and relationships.

For group meetings, ask these kinds of Leading Questions:

  • Can you share a recent win that no one else in the room knows about?
  • What’s one way a colleague has made your job easier in the last month?

In one-on-one conversations, try:

  • What happened recently that made you feel successful in your work?
  • Can you tell me about a time recently you were glad to be able to help a colleague?

Praise on a point

More than a third of employees say they haven’t been recognized for their work in the past year, an American Psychological Association survey found.

Yet, researchers say employees who are recognized think the best of their companies. That’s why leaders need to call out employees for doing good work every day.

The key: Give specifics on how someone’s individual work leads to a collective success.

Build a platform

Leaders can set the tone for a more positive workplace. But they can’t sustain it. Nearly everyone has to get involved eventually. (But, recognize that some people are naturally negative and can’t contribute to a positive place.)

So make speaking up about success a part of everyday culture.

For instance, employees at Nationwide Brokerage Services start every work day talking about and celebrating successes. Teams “huddle” and talk about the prior day’s wins, and employees let others know if they’ll need some extra support for that day so colleagues can rally around them.

Giving people a platform to talk about successes can move things in a positive direction.

Once they get comfortable with it in a structured setting, they’ll see that talking about success is a valued part of a positive culture.

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