Relationships at Work - Your Honest Guide to Building Workplace Connections and Avoiding Leadership Blind Spots.

How Leaders Can Show Up With Positivity at Work with Rita Ernst

July 11, 2023 Russel Lolacher Episode 79
How Leaders Can Show Up With Positivity at Work with Rita Ernst
Relationships at Work - Your Honest Guide to Building Workplace Connections and Avoiding Leadership Blind Spots.
More Info
Relationships at Work - Your Honest Guide to Building Workplace Connections and Avoiding Leadership Blind Spots.
How Leaders Can Show Up With Positivity at Work with Rita Ernst
Jul 11, 2023 Episode 79
Russel Lolacher

In this episode of Relationships at Work, Russel chats with executive coach and author Rita Ernst on showing up with positivity at work, why that's so important and what that looks like.

RIta shares her thoughts, stories and experience with...

  • Positivity as being your authentic self at work.
  • How confirmation bias gets in our way.
  • Showing up positively includes standing up for a better workplace.
  • The misconceptions of positivity.
  • How newer generations are more apt to fight for a positive workplace.
  • The first steps on our road to being more positive.
  • Rethinking culture starting at the top of an organization.
  • Why honesty could be your positivity weapon in a tough environment.

If you enjoy the podcast, please subscribe and share with others.
For more, go to relationshipsatwork.ca 

And connect with me for more great content!

Show Notes Transcript

In this episode of Relationships at Work, Russel chats with executive coach and author Rita Ernst on showing up with positivity at work, why that's so important and what that looks like.

RIta shares her thoughts, stories and experience with...

  • Positivity as being your authentic self at work.
  • How confirmation bias gets in our way.
  • Showing up positively includes standing up for a better workplace.
  • The misconceptions of positivity.
  • How newer generations are more apt to fight for a positive workplace.
  • The first steps on our road to being more positive.
  • Rethinking culture starting at the top of an organization.
  • Why honesty could be your positivity weapon in a tough environment.

If you enjoy the podcast, please subscribe and share with others.
For more, go to relationshipsatwork.ca 

And connect with me for more great content!

Russel Lolacher
And on the show today we have Rita Ernst, and here's why she is awesome. She is an organizational effectiveness consultant, which is a really good use for her organizational psychology master's degree. She's an executive coach, speaker and author of Show Up Positive - a book on helping you take back your positivity and your happiness at work. She's also the owner of Ignite Your Extraordinary, whose mission is to ignite positivity at work to improve performance, culture, and personal well being. She's a former radio presenter and former Adjunct Professor of Psychology and Organizational Behavior at McKendree. University. And she has a meaty, meaty background in HR. Welcome, Rita.

Rita Ernst
Thank you for having me, Russel, I'm very excited to be with you today.

Russel Lolacher
I am as well. And if nobody noticed the key word in that introduction, positivity is going to be a big part of our conversation today. Before we get into any of that, however, I have to ask you, Rita, the one question I asked all of my guests to start off, which is what's your best or worst employee experience?

Rita Ernst
Well, I'm going to choose to talk about one of my best experiences, because I think it's a great example of how we can show a positive for one another in the workplace. So this was maybe my second or third career move when I was in corporate America. And I was actually coming from a satellite location into headquarters. And all of a sudden, there was a reorganization, we all love those don't wait. When you come thinking you're like on one team, and you show up and something else changes. And so there was this, this mishmash of teams that were coming together. So you know, people were sort of just needing to find their footing a little bit, and you had intact work groups that were merging. So that's always a bit of the Who's In Who's Out, you know, all of those vibes that you can get from the middle school cafeteria at work, that's no fun whatsoever. And the leader of this particular organization, had a very strong opinion about the practice of organizational psychology in the business and the kind of effectiveness work that we should be doing. But the methodology of communication was kind of a struggle. And I noticed that I had some colleagues that he responded to differently than how he responded to me personally. And so I was really not enjoying the job, I was really questioning whether I should stay. And a lot of people were really unhappy with him as a leader. So there was a lot of behind the scenes kibitzing that was going on about all of his flaws and what people were struggling with. And I just, I didn't want to feed into that if I was going to stay, I needed to figure out how to make it work. That was what I knew. And so I went to my colleague, Jerry, and we had already started to form a bond and a friendship. And I said, Hey, I'm noticing that when you are interacting with the boss, you are getting a very different response from him than when I am interacting. And what do you think that's about? What do you notice about me and when I'm interacting, and so she shared some things with me, and gave me some feedback and gave me some ideas. And we developed this peer to peer coaching thing, which was mainly me getting to be the receiver, which is what made it such an amazing gift. But it's also what made it such a positive thing, you know, I could have given up I could have looked for another job, I could have just joined the bitch best that was going on about this particular individual. And instead, I actually I was having a conversation with him one time, weeks and cubicles, you know, so you have like, was sort of high walls. And he was a short guy. So he was standing outside of my cubicle while we were having this conversation about him. And I didn't really know it until, until the end of it. And so yeah, see if a golden moment and I was like, Okay, now you really gotta go own it. So I actually, you know, instead of avoiding it or letting it be this unsaid thing, I set up a meeting with him and said, you know, hey, there's a lot of unhappiness and discontent, but I want to be part of the solution, not part of the problem. I'm seeking coaching from others, but I want to collaborate and CO create with you I you know, and what would that look like? And the beautiful thing about the story is one I had this amazing relationship with Jerry, who I still adore, and who taught me what it meant to be a mentor to others around you in the workplace and to really band together to do something that is positive in difficult circumstances. And then the second thing was, by the time I left, he was begging me to stay you know, he was just like, oh my gosh, you know, you've come so far I want you to stay in it. But you know, I left for reasons that were not really related to him. whatsoever. But it was a beautiful moment to have known that I, I would had successfully navigated to that place. I was still wasn't sure I wanted to work for him. But the fact that he saw my value on the team and was willing to express that, to me May May made it extra rich. But what I want people to take away from the story is this idea of really finding strength and security and growth through your teammates, it doesn't, you don't have to be limited by your boss.

Russel Lolacher
I love that story. Because so many will just either go talk to somebody else, and just like you said, a bitch fest, and immediately just complaining add negativity to the culture of the organization, and perpetuate the myth, possibly of this aura of bad leadership and so forth. Yes, girdles of the person is there needs to be an opportunity for letting them learn from them that they might not, but they need the opportunity to so I... you're a better person than I in some certain situations. But I, I respect that immensely. Because it's people just immediately look at culture as an other, as opposed to something that they're a part of, and something they influence. So yeah, thank you so much for that. Speaking of, we're getting into positivity, which is, I mean, I'd love that you kind of turn that 180 into something that was positive. So speaking to the author, that you are of show up positive? How would you describe or define positivity in the workplace?

Rita Ernst
I just find positivity as living your authentic experience, and being the master of that experience using your agency to create that. So positivity isn't pretending that there aren't problems. It isn't pretending things are good when they are bad. It's not tapping down real emotions you people need to feel and they need to express their full set of emotions. The question you have to ask yourself is, am I getting trapped by my emotions? Am I telling myself like that, like in the story that I just shared, I could have told myself the story that this guy was, was never going to change, that it was just going to be miserable. And I could have allowed that to be the story that just fed my existence. And I chose to pick a different story instead. And so that's what I mean, when it's positive. It wasn't that things were hunky dory and beautiful and that I like I said that I really loved working for him or felt really compelled to be in that team. But while I was there, I was contributing, I was raising my personal skill set wasn't allowing those circumstances to limit or define me, that's me showing up positive for myself for the customers that I was serving for my teammates. And so that's the differentiation that I think is so important for people to understand. There's a lot of information out there that would say positivity means never feeling negative. And we know that that psychologically, that's not helpful, you need the contrast, you need to understand the difference. And so for me, positivity is being forward focused, versus negativity, which is being stuck in a situation.

Russel Lolacher
And how does that feel for the individual who's having to because not everybody is flick a switch positive. They're either impacts from home impacts that they have to bring into work that is not easy to, you know, push away from themselves. So how does it feel to turn that switch? I just want I'm kind of asking I guess about the benefits of being that positive person?

Rita Ernst
Well, I think the benefit is we all we have some psychological conditions that are really important to us as human beings. One of them is that we like to be right. So if we are telling ourselves a story about how shitty everything is, then we are going to look for conformational information about that, so that we can be right. If we change that story to things are really crappy, but I am not going to allow the crap to hold me back. Right then that's, that's just the shift in the story. So, so we like to be right, so choose a right, that fills your cup versus a right that depletes all of your energy and your will and your happiness. The second thing is that we do have this part of our brain that that looks for information to confirm what we what our what our truth is, right? It's why we are so polarized in politics and other things in so hard to move people. Because once we've drawn a belief or conclusion, we just look to affirm that so if my conclusion was this This guy is a horrible boss, and he's never going to change on I just fade stuck in that loop. That's all I would have seen. And it would just would have reaffirmed and reaffirmed my my discontent, but what would I get out of that? What would that really do to serve me. So that's what the flip the switches the flip the switch is really just knowing that in believing in your ability to create something that may not be everything you want, I never got that job all the way to bright. But instead of having that deplete me every day, I took away some essential learnings that have made me better for where I am right now, I didn't let those circumstances limit what I could receive, as long as I was in that situation. And you know, and I, it's important Russell to understand that what we're talking about are not situations like the death of a loved one, when you're in true grief over things, it's a different thing. There's a whole grieving process that you need to do, and you should do that. But but in other situations, you do have this ability to really use your agency to create what you want, I I've always been a behavior psychology person, I believe in the behaviors theory, and that is that we have the ability to create what we want. And so that's, that's the lens that I am bringing to this, but there's a lot of information to support that.

Russel Lolacher
You mentioned off the top that to be positive, you can also be negative, but I'm kind of curious as well, Are there levels of that positivity? Because it's, it feels like more like a spectrum than a ones and zeros kind of situation. Because I've seen people that are they're getting through the day, and I'm like, Oh, they're they're managing others. I'm like, could you dial it down a bit, your positivity might be a little over the top? Am I wrong? And missing that or...?

Rita Ernst
No, I think I think you could, that could be very true. For sure. I do see it as a it's a continuum of of emotions. But again, it's is your energy moving forward? Or is your energy pulling back? I mean, that's sort of the continuum, like imagine magnets, right? So that you know, you're, you're on this is this push pull thing, and, and we really want to be pulling forward. And so there's a story that I share in the book, I have a connection of mine on LinkedIn, who worked at Middle Tennessee State, on the board, he was on the board. And he put the snippet of one of their meetings up on LinkedIn as I was writing the book, and I was like, Oh, I have to use this to talk about what you know, this idea that positivity can be about standing up calling out the negative things, right. So he got in front of the board. And he said, we're not living up to our diversity commitments. We are not, we're not we're not graduating, our our black and brown students at the rates, same rates as we are, we are not. I think there were like 20 teacher appointments that were made, and none of them were people of color. And he said, You know, we've got to do better, we have a commitment to this. And so he's calling out and he and he even calls them out for shoving the conversation down, you keep shutting this conversation down every time I raise it. But this is one of our core values that we say we stand for, and I'm not going to be quiet about it. And he happens to be a black man. But you know, he could have been any color, any gender, any whatever the fact was, he was standing up, he was showing up positive for a value that this university said mattered and told students and told their stakeholders mattered. And he said, Hey, we're not living to that commitment. And so you could say he was being negative, but I don't think he was being negative. I think he was being honest. I think he was standing in his truth in that moment. It was a hard message to deliver. And so the guidance I always give to my my clients is when you have those hard moments when you've got to stand in your truth and you've got to say something that could feel like it's attacking or may not be very well received by the other person. You just check your intention. If your intention is to make that person feel bad, to make sure they feel pain because they're in the wrong then you might have the wrong end of the stick. That may be a little bit too negative. But if you're if your intention is to drive change to activate people, but you got to talk about the hard thing first. That's a good place to be you can navigate from there.

Russel Lolacher
Thanks for that clarity too, because coming into this, most people will see positivity and think, "Oh, it's just turning my frown upside down", Rita. It's not standing up for what's right. It's not speaking to core values. It's not, you know, shifting, trying to shift the culture to where it should be rather than where it's entrenched. So thank you for that clarity, because most most won't look at it like that. Are there any other misconceptions around the positivity at work?

Rita Ernst
I think another huge misconception that's very much attached to this is the idea that you have to go along to get along that in a culture, we just, you know, if we're in a positive happy culture, then you just let all these things roll off your back, and you just go along to get along, and you can't survive that, that, you know, people have to be true mind body spirit, alignment, right, we got to be true to who we are and what matters to us. And if we keep suppressing and keep suppressing, to go along and get along with others, then we can't be our full selves. Well, if we can't be our full selves at work, then we cannot have our ultimate happiness and productivity and in growth in that position, right? Eventually, that's going to deplete us. And we all need those things, right, we need to be doing something that is meaningful to us with a group of people that we want to be doing it with, in a way that really helps us reach for our potential. We we know that about us as humans, that's who we all are. And so when you ask people to just sit back and go along with things that are really not sitting right with them, all you're doing is you're chipping away at those three things. And we don't want to chip away at that. It's a much more interesting and powerful and connecting a moment when we can have a conversation about where that disconnect might be and find a way to bridge it together.

Russel Lolacher
So here's an example of someone at the top of an organization who everybody likes their positive and every interaction you talk to, and yet their avoidance of conflict turns the organization into well, unhealthy, cracked culture, burnout, because that person might be the nicest person in the world. But when it comes to change, it's just not his forte, and he doesn't want to, as you say, "rock the boat." Is that positive?

Rita Ernst
I don't think it's positive. Okay, and you're giving me a perfect example. Right? Because it is detrimental to other people around you. So what's different about personal life and workplace is in the workplace, it has to construct together into something meaningful for the whole, we have to pay attention to the whole and not just the self, in the example that you gave this person is prioritizing self over what's best for the whole feels really uncomfortable, I don't really want to do it, I you know, I'm just not that good at it. It'll all work out, okay. And they're in there inadvertently or unintentionally, or with their head in the sand, pushing that off on everybody else around them to solve for instead of taking responsibility to be a part of that solution? And it's because we have, you know, I think we've gotten better, I think we're seeing that in the new generations entering the workplace. Younger people are less scared of conflict conversations. But for for my generation, for sure. I mean, when we grew up in school, we were told to just be nice, and not create conflict. We didn't teach how to have conversation that honor disagreement. And I do think schools, colleges are doing a better job at that today and breaking through. I mean, I was just reflecting on this recently, Russell, but it has been over a half a century since we started receiving management consulting books in the marketplace, that talk about these things that talk about the importance of healthy conflict, or allowing for that to happen in the workplace about different ways of working together and showing respect to one another and what leadership is and that you don't leadership is an avoidance. And yet here we are, we're, you know, we're still trying to move the needle forward about that.

Russel Lolacher
Working with humans is messy, Rita. It's never a simple thing. I love that you haven't mentioned off the top of how change management is is messy and I always say, "Why do we need to make it messier?" And I think by being that positive, embracing those experiences that are not easy for a lot of people will only help it. But as you mentioned, there is a challenge for a lot of people there is that switch. So for example, if I'm a new emerging leader in an organization, or I'm making my way up in an organization, and I want to be more positive, where do I start? If I'm trying to shift the needle for myself, I'm, I realized from either you know, 360 reviews or something, there's been enough feedback to tell feedback to tell me, I need to make a change. What's step one or step two?

Rita Ernst
Well, step one is visualizing who you want to be, and what the workplace around you looks like. And I mean, you really, I want you to sit deeply in that question, and really try to to visualize it in your head. Who are the people around you? What is happening? What are the conversations, what is the atmosphere like, you really need to know what you want to create? And then you got to talk to yourself about why does that matter, it's got to be compelling enough, there's got to be a real, we only change for two reasons. We only change because it hurts too much to stay where we are. Or because there's something that is so enticing, we are willing to go through the difficulty of change the painfulness of change in order to get it. So you got to create one of those two situations, the other guy that be so miserable, that you have no choice but to change, or you've got to have a vision that is so compelling to you that you really, really want to create that for yourself. And what I what I did in the book is I gave people the book has two parts. Part one, is what I affectionately call my manifesto, it's just everything that we've been talking about wrestling gifts, the why why should we care about positivity? What is what is toxic positivity? How do we avoid that? You know, how do we get out of the misnomers of what what positivity really isn't. And then how do we begin to act our way into this new positive culture that we want to create and then the for the acting part, in part two, I give 50, what I call show up positive sparks, they are words that that are represent behaviors, or mindfulness interaction where we can work on mindset around how to get more positive. And I think you start and you pick one simple thing, but I will tell you, here's my shortcut for everybody. The first thing if nothing else, especially if you're a leader in an organization, start with recognition and gratitude. People report we study this annually, and people annually say they are not receiving enough recognition. They want to know that they are seen and heard and understood and cared for, if you can hit those four things, I see you, I hear you, I care about you, as a person, and I want to understand how I can better support you. If you can, if you can stay in the that live in that conversation for a year, you you will see extraordinary change in your people and in your results you could just work on at for a year, I promise you in the gratitude part is also for yourself, I mean, making sure that you are recognizing in yourself, but I I talk about this as it's a journey, it's not really a destination, you're always working on it. And it's a go slow to go fast. So it's not Oh, there's 50 words, I'll do them in 50 days, and then I'll have positivity. It doesn't work like that at all. What we want is we want to really embed a practice of positive mindset shift and positive behavior. That's as consistent as we can make it understand that there's still going to be all the negative things that happen. By cultivating this practice, you're actually building this positive bank account for yourself and for and with others. And it's like a rainy day fund because you're going to go through some shit storms, it is going to happen. And you're going to withdrawal from that bank account. That negativity is going to take down that bank account. So the bigger the balance that you are building up in there, the better because those for each deposit that you put in. You don't get to take one negative out it takes three to five deposits to compensate for each deduction from a negative interaction. So we got to really be crafting this in in a real and true way. And then I just want to share One other really important message while we're on this topic rustle in that is, we really need to challenge the story that we are telling ourselves about what our job is, as a leader. I think so many of the reasons that we get wrapped around the axle on these things is because we've only seen an experienced perhaps a leadership style, that is still not what we know we need. And if we just keep replicating the old will never get to the new. So we need to tell ourselves a story that we're pioneering. And that that means we're going to make mistakes. And we're allowed, we're going to fail up, we're going to grow from those mistakes. And we're not always going to know the three year five year plan, who cares? Take it one day at a time, one step at a time. What's the next right thing? What feels right, what's the next right thing that you can do to be the leader, you're visioning yourself and your visioning for your team. And just keep moving forward one step at a time with a lot of empathy and forgiveness for yourself, as you pioneer the new journey.

Russel Lolacher
Oh, I like a pioneer. I love that. I want to also mention around you talked about, everybody needs encouragement, everybody needs to hear those positives. And where I see it falling down is that leaders at a certain level think they don't have to do that anymore. Because the head of an executive isn't doing that to their junior executives, they're just pointing to them and go go fix the problems in the organization without realizing those junior executives are also employees who also need that encouragement. Leaders need leaders, it doesn't stop at a certain level. But when you when you're saying that I'm hearing in the back of my mind going, "Oh, but it's not just frontline staff. Oh, but it's not just..." it's, it's I've seen so many emerging leaders at the junior executive level being beaten down burnt out, because they are not getting that level of positivity of encouragement. They're just seen as tools in the organization to get that employee engagement to improve that employee experience when they are part of the employee experience. So yes, how do you turn that, that that switch for people? Because as someone who goes into organizations and talks to clients about improving that positivity? How do you using the metaphor, we've done flick the switch on those who may not see the value of positivity? What is that light bulb for them?

Rita Ernst
So I think that that visualization exercise that we just talked about, really helps people, when I go into an organization, I have a lot of conversations, first of all, the first thing we're going to do is we're going to do a deep assessment. And I'm going to talk to anybody at any level that wants to talk to me. And most people have in their mind one of two things they either have, it's that very first question that you asked, right? They either have this experience amazing experience. And if I can get them tuned into what made that so amazing, and what would it take to recreate that where you are right now, people have some muscle memory around that, but they long they longed to have that back. Or they might have the other side, they might have like, the thing they fled that they don't ever want back in their lives in. Now it's about so you're here to create something different? What does creating something different? Sometimes people can get into, like, how do I be the aesthetical, um, to what you know, to what has been so painful to me. So it is a very personal thing. And I you know, one of the things we haven't talked about Russel that I think is important to say at this moment is I really abandon this idea that culture starts at the top of the organization. I think if you're in a really, really small company, where there's just a handful of people, you know, a dozen of you that but when you're talking about multi levels of leaders, you don't need to wait. And you don't need to allow what is or is not happening above you to define what's possible for you and for your team. And you can just start with the people around you and and what I say to individual workers is be the co worker you wish you had. When you think about what do I want my workplace to be like every day and how do I wish people were treating me start treating other people that way start showing people what that looks like. And I think for leaders it is the same kind of thing. What do you want from your people? What kind of energy flow Do you want to create in the work place? And how can you be again to talk to your team about that and invite them to co create with you because that's the other thing, there's the end of the book before you go into the show of positive sparks. And part two, I give seven tips because this journey, it's not a cookie cutter, I wish I could just lay it out and say, cookie cutter, do these steps and you will be there. But one of them is, is this idea of put away your cape. And I think that so many times, people who are in management duties, start avoiding the conversations that we're talking about. Because they feel like if nobody says it out loud, I can just pretend it's not a problem. And it's not, I don't have to deal with it. Because when they again, they have the story in their mind that they are a manager, and therefore it's all their responsibility, they have to fix it, they have to have a solution. And they can't go in front of their people and not have a solution because that would look really bad. Those are old, old, old management stories that are no longer true in today's workplace. And the future is in CO creating in collaboration with your team. So you no longer need to be and hold yourself to the standard of the manager with all the answers. You need to be the manager with all the best questions.

Russel Lolacher
Love that. I absolutely love that. So you're going to work? You're positive, Rita, you're doing everything you can you're the you're the beacon of positivity, how do you adapt through the challenges of a workplace that is making that very hard to be positive?

Rita Ernst
Well the beacon of positivity is this, you know, somebody comes up to me and says, "Hey, how are you doing?" "You know what, it's a really hard day. I'm uh, I'm struggling a bit today. Thank you for asking. I don't want to burden you with all my issues. But it's it is feeling like a tough day today. And I'm just, I'm working through that." You have this moment of realness, you don't hide that you don't put the veneer on? Notice. I'm not complaining about somebody. I'm not creating this downward spiraling energy of negativity. I'm just being honest. I'm struggling today. Today, today wouldn't today isn't feeling like it's gonna go in the wind column for me. You know, and somebody might say, you know, well, is there something I could do to help you? And maybe there is, you know, maybe it's like, you know, well, I just have so much work that I don't even know how I'm gonna get to it. And I need to be at my kids piano recital tonight. And, well, you know, can I take some of that work from you, they might offer something to you. You never know. And, you know, even if they don't, even if they say, they're not the right person, can I help you? Maybe they will strike that inspiration of, you don't want to get a whole team of people around me. Maybe I needed to go ask for help. Like, maybe that's the positive step forward. Maybe I could go ask somebody if they would help me. Right, that's showing a positive again, it's not that I'm smiley, smiley, that that there's this veneer of sunshine, that you know, I've crowned myself with and I'm never... Masking is not positivity. Transparency is positivity.

Russel Lolacher
And you're never going to build that, as you mentioned earlier, that social capital, if that insincerity is what people are seeing. People aren't stupid. They know when you're put it your masking. They see it, they see right through it. Something that I've heard mentioned a lot more recently, in the last couple years, is the idea of toxic positive positivity, where the needle goes too far, or it is that insincerity. How is it an actual problem?

Rita Ernst
I think it can be definitely it can be a problem. It is. It's the unfortunate side effect of measuring a lot of things. So a lot of the data that I share with people there is scientifically factual data that shows that when you have happier employees, you have better results in your business. Full stop unrepeatable evidence of that. And so one of the leaders in this, for example, is the Gallup organization. They have their Q 12 which is a survey that they can give to your population that asks 12 Questions Only and based on those 12 questions they have scientifically proven that organizations where people are responding more positively on those 12 questions are outperforming everybody else in their category. And so worse than they offer consulting services when your scores are not where they need to be. And that's a good thing. But in business, sometimes we get way too fixated on moving the number, right, we lose the human element. And that's where it gets toxic when we are. Because what happens is, instead of having a generative constructive conversation with managers about, okay, how are we going to move the numbers, we start trying to turn it into some specific plan that may or may not make sense with a bunch of marching orders that we're throwing on top of a list of other demands, that are creating burnout, that are sending all the wrong complex signals. And but it's not really making any difference, because we instead of empowering leaders, we are just dictating a roadmap to them to try to move the needle on some metrics. Right. And so that's how the, that's how I see a lot of the toxic stuff happen. It's, it's good, it's good that we're paying attention and that we want to move those numbers. But you know, it the first rule of medicine is first do no harm. And sometimes I think we need that in business. Like, before you go all in to move those metrics like art, make sure first you're doing no harm. Because you know, people, human beings have specific needs because of our humaneness. We have those needs. And when we try to treat people as if their machinery it just doesn't work. It never works. And I feel like that's where a lot of the toxic positivity comes from. It's these forced march, a lot of times it gets hung up on HR as being the culprit behind it, because they are leading these employees engaged engagement studies and metrics. But either the intention is good, but the execution is faulted. Whether or not anybody's willing to say the emperor has no clothes. That's, you know, that's the other problem. You know, we often just people, that's the other toxic positivity is when people are just not allowed to call out the problems authentically.

Russel Lolacher
I find that there's too many organizations that focus so much on the employee engagement, as you've mentioned, rather than focusing on what's causing disengagement. It's much more about Ooh, can we add pizza parties? Can we do more things about engagement or emails need to be better and more engaging? And, or, or you could listen to your staff and as you said, remove those things that are actually stopping them from feeling like they can speak truth to power, that they can be positive at work, because they don't feel like they can speak up. They don't feel like there is I love that you said Do no harm because it's so applicable in that moment. So what can organizations do to demonstrate what would you love to see organizations do to demonstrate they are open minded? They want positivity in the workplace? What can they actually proactively do?

Rita Ernst
Well, what are the reasons I look at the Q 12 data? And really appreciate that data set and those questions, and I would so one, one thing I would say is if you don't have the dollars to hire Gallup, I understand that I'm actually in conversation with a local Lulu avillion research company that's coming out with an another kind of engagement tool that I'm pretty excited about that would be a little more affordable for small and medium companies. But you can still look at those Q 12 questions because they are not about any of those surface things mean that when you when you dig into the questions, the questions are things like, in the last six months, somebody's talked to me about my, my progress or my future in the company. On a day to day basis, I have the tools and resources I need to do my job. Like these are very pragmatic, practical things. Now, there are a few other things in there, there's a question that says, I have a best friend at work. It's the number one predictor of retention in, in the workplace, not surprisingly. And what I love about the Q12. Is is tied to to these three essential things that we've learned in psychology that everybody needs in the workplace. One is they need autonomy, they need freedom around doing their job, they need the tools and resources and get out of my way and let me be the professional that I am to do my job. Now if I'm brand new and you need to train me and onboard me to be able to do that, you know, help me get to competence faster becomes. But once I'm there, when I change jobs, you might have to help me again to get to the competence level, then, you know, get out of my way, don't micromanage me, this is why some consider that micromanager thing. The second thing that people need is they need, they need to contribute, they need to be doing work that matters at a capacity level that matches their their aspirations. Right? So people want to make a valuable contribution every day, how are we reinforcing? That's that recognition to people every day, you're doing something valuable that matters that is being seen, and is making a difference. You know, it's simple example. Think it's a Toyota manufacturing on the car assembly line, they have a goal. And there's a, there's, the goal is at the end of the assembly plant, there's a number and they count down the cars that go out the line. And the goal for that whole unit, everybody working in the line at that shift is to get their number of cars out the door. But of course, they don't want to sacrifice quality, any team member there can stop the production line, if there's quality issue or something that needs to be fixed. There's a problem. But they also then have the share goal that they're tracking, they know so they can see like, we're gonna make our number or, Hey, we're kind of behind the ball here a little bit what's going on? Is this Is this legitimate? Or should we be performing differently, it allows a conversation. So contribution you gotta have, you gotta have autonomy, freedom to do your work, you got to have contribution that's meaningful and matters and is valued. And then you have to have relationship and belonging. And that is the first thing that you can do for anybody coming in the door. That's why onboarding is so important. You can't it's like when your kids, you know, go off to school for the first day right away. You can't help them make friends, they got to do that on their own in their own time. But are the conditions present in your workplace? Are you creating an environment that allows people to really get to know one another and create connection? So one of the first things when you start to see performance decline in a team, we often look at all kinds of metrics and things, the number one thing I would recommend that you look at is look at the relationships in the team. Are people you know, are people still in a good place around their belonging? And so what I love about the Q12, is it hits all three of those factors in a very pragmatic way. And that question about you don't have to have a best friend, if you do, you're likely to stay longer and feel more positive about the company that you're in. But it gets to this idea of belonging. And we are recognizing and of course, we're talking about it in diversity and inclusion, this importance of belonging in the workplace. And it's a foundational place when I do cultural repair work. Belonging is one of the first places that we're going to focus time and attention for that reason.

Russel Lolacher
Of course, I smirk every time I hear the word relationships just based on the name of the podcast. So I'm like, Oh, she's hitting those keywords perfectly. Thank you, Rita.

Rita Ernst
Welcome.

Russel Lolacher
So I have to I have to wrap up the podcast, this beautiful conversation with the question I always ask, which is, what's one simple action people can do right now, to improve those relationships at work? Speaking of relationships...

Rita Ernst
I think that the simplest thing that you can do is make a commitment to yourself for one week, to catch people around you at work, doing good things. It might be helping out a colleague, it might just be the way they're delivering their job, it might just be telling the joke that gets everybody laughing, the lines, whatever, it can't just catch people bringing good into your workplace and acknowledge it in some way. Now my favorite thing is to write a note. And if you're having a really bad day, one of the best things that you can do is go find yourself three minutes of quiet with a piece of paper or a post it note and write two or three notes of of gratitude and appreciation to people around you at work and then go deliver them. You will get this release this positive release in your heart and soul. Trust me, everybody that does this activity with me says it. It will it will fill your cup instantaneously with those positive deposits just to write it. And then when you go deliver it you're going to share that you're going to put positive deposits in somebody else's cup. And so that's, that's my best advice. Just start there, just start catching people doing something that is good and helpful at work and taking a moment to acknowledge it verbally or in writing.

Russel Lolacher
That's a damn good advice by Rita Ernst. She's an organizational effectiveness consultant and the author of Show Up Positive. Thank you so much for being here.

Rita Ernst
Thanks for having me, Russel. I loved every moment of this conversation.