About 15 years ago as the manager of a big Hawaiian resort I was asked by one of my team in an all manager meeting what I thought the most important trait of a great leader was. I took a moment before I answered, not because I had to decide on my answer, but I wanted to be sure I delivered the message in the most powerful way that would truly stick with my managers.
I believe that the most important trait of a great leader is the power of positivity. Our job as leaders is to inspire our teams on a daily basis and to ensure that they believe anything possible, especially our big hairy audacious goals. It is our role to tell them that the difficult tasks we face are surmountable. It is our role to give some indication of how that will be the case without spoon-feeding them the complete solutions. It is to start their day on a high note that will be reflected throughout their day and it is to constantly give them hope. Gosh, if we don’t have hope then they will be wondering what chance they have!
Imagine the scenario at a hotel one day. Everyone knows the hotel is oversold (i.e. we have more reservations that we have rooms), that a large group has been granted a guaranteed late check out, while another group has been guaranteed an early arrival when rooms will be ready. That is all before all the other check-ins arrive throughout the day!
For those that haven’t worked in the hotel industry, yes, this is a true story and yes, I’m afraid to tell you it is not a one off scenario either! Now imagine that this scene is compounded by more sick calls than usual in housekeeping and we were short staffed at the Front Office as well. I think you get the picture. It’s the perfect storm of a day.
If I, as the General Manager, spoke to my management team in the morning at our regular morning meeting with my shoulders hanging to the floor and my head down and bags under my eyes, shaking my head repeating over and over “how on earth will we get through the day?” – how do you think the team would tackle the day?
The reality is more like this.
After perhaps one extra coffee in the morning, I would bound into the morning meeting with a big smile and ask with gusto if everyone was ready to tackle a really exciting day? A day that we would be immensely proud of by the time we headed home? I would start by clarifying the situation we were in and guide the conversation through a series of solutions and then rather than provide them, have the team start the conversation and build on the solutions. It is amazing to watch the group then build out these ideas quickly and improve on them. It is a treat to see managers from other unrelated areas coming up with some of the best ideas or volunteering to help in housekeeping for half the day and by the end of our short 10 minute meeting we had a game plan and we had a team ready to crush it, cheering as we head back to our departments. They left with hope. They left with more positivity than they thought they could muster. And, of course, we had a terrific day with a few bumps in the road but a full and happy hotel by the end of the day.
The power of positivity is essential in the best of times. Here we all are as citizens of the world facing some of the hardest of times during the Coronavirus pandemic. A situation that is affecting us all in different ways and, in many cases, some very extreme ways bringing hardships and affecting health. We are all affected in some way. There is never a more important time to share realities but with a powerful dose of positivity and hope.
I believe that we all have some sort of leadership role to play in life, maybe as a boss, or maybe as an influencer over a group of friends, or as a big brother or sister. Regardless of the role, I think we must all seek to share positivity during this time of adversity.
Take time to sift through the ‘black hole of news’ that is come at us all fast and find the elements of good news or stories of great humanity. Focus on the wonderful outcomes from being on lock down, such as spending better quality time with family or speaking with loved ones on a video call for longer than you ever have before. Share with everyone how much you have been able to clear out your email inbox! Perhaps you have found more time to read or exercise than usual. Share the stories of the gin distilleries that are now making sanitizer and that people are volunteering to buy groceries for those that are self-isolating.
In the workplace consider what an opportunity this is to build your team together even more strongly than ever as you unite behind a common cause. Consider what your business can do for the community and get your team involved. Make sure they hear you say “we will get through this” and allow them all to become part of the solutions. Make them proud to be a member of the team and allow them to enjoy a positive experience despite the circumstances.
Whatever it is you decide to do differently to give people hope from here on in, do it remembering the power of positivity and it is the single most important thing you can provide for your team in these tough times and in the best of times.
How will you be more positive for the people around you tomorrow?