5 Ways to Use the Power Lead to Spark Positivity.

I went to the Work Human Conference in Orlando last year and saw Michelle Gielan speak on Broadcasting Happiness.” She is a terrific speaker and I was inspired to buy her book of the same title. I finally got around to reading (er…listening to the book via Audible) this past month. It is an inspiring piece of work, which I defy you to read and have it not impact your life. Yes, it is that good.


Gielan’s premise is that positivity at work and at home inspires a higher level of performance and creativity. Part of the reason is that humans seek to mirror others. So, if Negative Nancy is leading the meeting, it has negative results because everyone follows Negative Nancy in kind. On the other hand, if you–yes, youmake one small positive gesture like a power lead, it has a ripple effect that everyone else wants to mirror. A power lead is similar to being a coach or a broadcaster on the news. Instead of leading with bad news, lead with something positive. That is real impactful power.

So here are the 5 ways you can use a Power Lead to spark others:

1. Names.  For the last year, I have been trying to start emails, even ones from my phone with the person’s name.  As Dale Carnegie famously said, “A person’s name is to that person, the sweetest, most important sound in any language.” I also try hard to remember people’s names when they are introduced to me. I’m not always 100% correct, but I am making a much bigger effort. I also try, when possible, to have people write up name tags or badges at public events. It makes it easier for folks to know each other’s names and use them. I’m sure you’ve noticed that when you go shopping for a car, or someone is cold calling you, that they use your name several times. There is a reason–it’s the most important way to connect with someone. Be sure to take the time to type or remember their name and use it.

2. Greetings.  Take the time to have a positive greeting, even if it’s just once a day with    one person. A simple “Good Morning” or “Wow that’s a pretty necklace.” When you start looking for something positive to say in your first greeting of the day, it inspires others to do the same. It’s hard for your co-workers’ energy to be down when your energy is up. It may not turn them into Betty White after a Snickers bar, but it will not do any harm. As Geilan says in her book, “It can be addictive.” Imagine being addicted to positive greetings. You will be lighting a spark throughout your entire organization. Lead with a positive greeting.

3. How are you?  How many times do you respond to this with “OK” or “Ugh, I have a headache” or “My alarm didn’t go off this morning.” When you read that, how do you feel? More negative? I thought so. You are mirroring what you are reading. So think about being a mirror and respond in a more positive light. “I’m great.” “My team won and is going to the Super Bowl.” “Isn’t the weather beautiful outside?” There may be something wrong at home and maybe you forgot to eat breakfast, but there’s no need to broadcast that information. Look for the positive when you respond to that simple question.

4. Catch them doing something right.  Ken Blanchard said, “Catch them doing something right.” As a baby boomer leader, we were taught to constantly look for ways to correct folks. It’s much more inspiring to catch them doing something right. I love Gielan’s example of her first boss. At my first job out of college, my boss would ask me right off the bat, in a caring but serious tone, “What is one awesome thing you did—no matter how small—at work in the last week?” Gielan started with something simple and said things like, “I showed up for work.” Eventually, she became more aware of her accomplishments. In the end, it primed her to look for things that went right during the week. This helped fuel her work and will help fuel your direct reports as well.

5. Reciprocate.  When you find other nuggets of positivity in your workplace, make sure you reciprocate in kind. This is how it starts to transform a workplace. Places like Nationwide Insurance were able to triple (yes, triple revenues) by implementing happiness research programs. Find those folks who are positive and have a can-do attitude fuel their fire, as well as your fire. Reciprocate positivity and happiness throughout your organization.


As I wrote in my free eBook, “102 Itzy Bitzy Habits“, you should try just one little practice each day. Try it on for size for several weeks until it becomes a habit. It might be making sure you use someone’s name or catching one person doing something right. Just bite off one little piece every day and the progress will spur you on to try more.  To summarize Geilan, people who share positivity are paid higher wages, seen as more attractive and become more successful overall. Take that first bite today!

How to Champion Validation in Your Organization.

You know it the minute you walk into the doors of an organization. You feel the camaraderie. People are connected. They respect and trust each other. The energy. The pulse. This place is pumping out enthusiasm and positivity. The receptionist makes eye contact, smiles and is sitting tall in her chair. People. Your associates. Your direct report. They are all looking for validation. It might stem from being picked last for the dodge ball team but it’s there. A deep need for validation. validation

I just watched an interesting YouTube directed by Kurt Kuenne called “Validation”. My co-instructor at Duke University, Sandy Lewis, shared it with our class and it is a real eye-opener. It’s a fable about a parking attendant who gives REAL validation – dispensing free genuine compliments and parking. Watching this character transform the lives of the dreary folks just walking up to get their ticket validated is interesting. He stands there and gives out genuine compliments like “that dress you are wearing matches your eyes” or “you are amazing”. Once he has the customer smiling and transformed, he validates their parking ticket. This ends up have a ripple effect and pretty soon there is an enormous line of folks looking for validation and transformation. So think about that. What if you could change your organization just through validation?

Let’s see how it’s done.

It always starts with you. This is what I admire most about my co-instructor Sandy. She is always positive. She is always showing appreciation. There are no bad apples. The glass is always half full. What kind of aura are you sharing with the world? Are you Eeyore or Winnie the Pooh? Sandy is definitely Winnie the Pooh. Spreading sunshine and connection wherever she goes. Look at yourself in the mirror. What kind of energy are you sending out? It’s impossible to validate anyone else if you can’t validate yourself. As written by Dr. Linda Sapadin in her article, The Importance of Validation, “First and foremost, you need to give it to yourself. When you recognize your good traits, you are not being narcissistic. When you praise yourself for your accomplishments (provided you don’t go overboard), you are not being self-centered.” Self-validation is the starting point.
Be present with your co-workers. Technology kills being present. Looking at your phone while sitting in a meeting or getting off a few emails while listening to your assistant complain is not going to work. This happened the other day. And when I realized I couldn’t hear what he was saying, I stopped. I said “give me a minute to finish this email. I want to be able to listen to you.” You cannot be in two places at the same time. Pick one and show up. Be present.
Constantly be scanning for opportunities to compliment folks. As Kenneth H. Blanchard, The One Minute Manager, espouses “Help people reach their full potential, catch them doing something right.” Don’t you gravitate towards folks who compliment you? The acknowledgement is infectious. If you infect one person with a genuine compliment, it spreads. A social “pay it forward”. In the YouTube spot, people lined up for the validation. You will need to seek it out. In the ladies room, “that’s a pretty blouse.” At the employee meeting, “I love your laugh”. Via email, “thanks for making this happen so quickly.” Spread the love.
Try and be as specific as possible. If you are specific it’s more genuine. Example: “Good job” or “you were so timely and accurate with this report, I was able to sway the board”. Which feels better to you? I know it’s faster and easier to just say “good job”. Heck, some folks might be surprised if at you least said that instead of deafening silence. Why do you like someone’s tie? Or what is so great about the spreadsheet? Being specific helps it connect.
If practical, be as public as possible. Vince Lombardi famously said “Praise in public, criticize in private”. Sandy did this. She asked me to swap classes with her so that she could go on a trip with her husband to Barcelona. It wasn’t a big deal to me. She told the whole class how generous I was for agreeing to the swap. It was unexpected but her public appreciation and validation was terrific. And guess who I am likely to do a favor for in the future? Right. When someone does something right be sure to publicize it.

This is not a quick fix. It is a slow process to have an impact on an organization. Similar to the story of the boy throwing starfish one at a time into the ocean to save them – The old man replied, “But there must be tens of thousands of starfish on this beach. I’m afraid you won’t really be able to make much of a difference.”
The boy bent down, picked up yet another starfish and threw it as far as he could into the ocean. Then he turned, smiled and said, “It made a difference to that one!” So go out there and make a difference in just one person’s life. In a month or so it will be your entire department, and then your division; eventually, your entire organization.

Originally published on Change Your Thoughts on October 10, 2015.