Positive affirmations are a way of convincing yourself that you are better than you think you are, giving you a temporary boost in confidence and making it easier to “fake it till you make it” in uncomfortable situations. Not a bad skill to have to get through a stressful day. Some self-help gurus suggest that if you repeat a positive affirmation enough (like 100 times per day), you’ll eventually start believing it, and that will change your life.
Other self-help gurus say that positive affirmations are like putting frosting on poop – it might look pretty, but no matter how many layers you pile on, something smells.
Before you brush this off, thinking it has nothing to do with leadership effectiveness, look around and ask yourself who you can’t stand or don’t trust in your organization or in your life. If you are like me, they are often the people who look great and talk a good story, but there’s something that seems off. It may not be a smell, but there’s a sense that what’s on the surface isn’t quite trustworthy, sending a strong signal to keep your guard up while interacting with them.
This is important because trust is the exact thing we need in organizations in order to achieve the pinnacle of productivity, what people are now calling the psychological edge. Without trust you can’t get people engaged in important conversations, collaborating on great decisions, holding each other accountable, or achieving anywhere close to their highest potential.
Many organizations will utilize team experts to facilitate trust-building exercises, however deep trust issues often go unresolved because it’s impossible to trust a person who you believe is not inherently trustworthy. So, if covering poop up with frosting doesn’t solve the trust problem, the self-worth problem, or the confidence problem for any significant length of time, then what does?
How about dealing with all that poop head-on? Well, first you have to dig through all that frosting to get to the poop, then you have to decide what you want to do with it. It takes longer to deal with the poop than to cover it with frosting, which is why most organizations don’t go there.
But what if there were an easier way? Surely it takes longer than a one-day team building event, and maybe it’s more personally challenging than repeating “I like myself” 200 times per day, but it’s doable, and has a significantly better chance of enabling authentic relationships in professional environments.
This is how we do it at Nahid Coaching and Mentoring:
- Normalize Poop: Everybody has it, it all smells, and none of us like stepping in it. Yet, if we are willing to look at it, we can learn things that allow us to become more effective.
- Provide a Map and a Guide: Here’s how to find yours, these are the signals, here are the tools that show you what you can do with it when you find it.
- Create Community: Remind ourselves, we’re all going on this journey together.
- Build a Safe Environment for Ongoing Growth: It may take a while and there may be some rough spots along the way, but there will always be someone you can depend on to help you get back on track.
- Acknowledge: Recognize that each seemingly small success shows up as a big win in everyday life. It’s amazing the difference it can make when we feel just a little bit less stressed, more patient and clear in a conversation, and can withhold judgment just long enough to get the real story.
After doing this kind of work for six to nine months, you will probably notice that managers get better at listening and become more patient, yet at the same time they have enough confidence to give clearer feedback and direction. Team members are less defensive with each other, more willing to give each other the benefit of the doubt, and they more openly come to the table and try to resolve issues instead of villainizing each other.
In Debbie Ford’s book, “The Dark Side of the Light Chasers”, she notes that whatever people deny in themselves they tend to project onto others. In a business setting, this shows up as a lot of people with blind spots acting in ways that negatively impact each other and the team. Unfortunately, they only see the problems in others, even after receiving repeated feedback around their own weaknesses.
If this sounds like a familiar theme within your team or organization, I would love to hear from you and welcome your comments and feedback. You can reach out to me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 714-931-2133.