THE GATEKEEPER OF THINKING
People who think positively outperform better-trained, pessimistic workers by more than 50 percent. The prevailing thinking pattern of a team or an organization defines what it is and what it does. The boundaries that the leader sets determine the type of thinking that prevails.
Naysayers can influence everyone around them in negative ways. Anticipating negative and positive outcomes causes distinct chemical reactions in the brain. The threatened brain freezes up and works at diminished capacity. Anticipation of good outcomes causes the brain to produce dopamine, which makes it more alert and interested. Leaders should model the philosophy that action produces positive results.
In contrast, those who are negative in their thinking have learned to be helpless. Rather than taking action to banish pain, they believe that no matter what they do, the pain will remain, so they do nothing. The brain learns to be passive and shuts down. This style of thinking has three stages, known as the three Ps:
1. Personal: People blame themselves, thinking they caused the problem because they were bad.
2. Pervasive: People generalize that the problem from a single situation applies to every situation, believing nothing can go well.
3. Permanent: People believe the problem can never change for the better. Nothing will be different, so why try?
One important role of leadership is eliminating negative thinking when it seeps into the organization. Find-a-way thinking separates people whose circumstances overcome them and people who overcome their circumstances. As long as leaders set strong boundaries that do not allow negative thinking, employees will find a way. The belief that success is within reach is one of the strongest predictors of goal achievement.