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The Problem with Positive Thinking

By | David Klaasen | Helping You Create Clarity, Inspire Your People & Drive Performance | Retain your best people | Changing Management Mindsets and Behaviour | Practical Behaviour Analytics

In a classic business context it is usual to have things like Key Performance Indicators, Targets or Critical Success Factors, and it is always recommended that these should be SMART. But there is a lot more to achieving a goal than simply applying the SMART acronym. I have been a student of applied psychology for over 20 years now, and I am always curious about finding the difference that makes the difference.

There is so much hype around these days about the ‘Power of Positive Thinking’, and while I agree that it can be useful in many circumstances, especially when faced with challenges that can at times seem overwhelming, it is important to recognise that according to research done by Roger Bailey up to 40% of the working population are only motivated by problems and wanting to avoid negative consequences.

The difference that makes a difference between achieving a goal or not, will ultimately depend on your level of motivation. Motivation is the fuel that drives your energy and, now more than ever, you need significant amounts of energy in order to achieve your goals.

Where does your motivation come from?

So it is worth thinking about . . . where does your motivation come from? Is it from the things you will get, what you will achieve and the benefits of achieving it? Or does it come from what you will avoid, what you won’t have and the problems you will no longer have to deal with?

A client of mine was recently assessed against the Investors in People (IiP) standard and although they had previously been awarded IiP Recognition, the assessor found that they needed to implement more systems and procedures in order to comply with the requirements laid down by Investors in People UK. In other words, they were no longer meeting the standard.

There were a number of things that they needed to do more of, like doing more consistent appraisals, clarifying management competencies, and evaluating training and development activity. A number of months went by before much action was taken, and even then the directors did not really seem to think that there was a big problem as long as the sales turnover was good, there was not really that much to worry about.  They had an action plan that detailed all that needed to be done, and yet there was a lack of progress. A lack of motivation.

The months continued to pass without much happening with the Action Plan and when the next Assessment date started to approach it become clear that there was still a lot to do. It was only when the Directors fully realised that if they did not achieve recognition at the next IiP assessment they would lose their Investors in People status that things began to shift. They realised that they would have to declare to all staff that the Directors and Management Team were failing to meet the standard despite having a year to improve. It took a while for it to sink in, but finally they recognised that this was something they did not want to face.

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