When you reflect on your last meal at a restaurant or the hotel you last stayed in, what comes to mind first? Is it a positive part of your experience or is it a negative part of your experience? For many of us, a negative experience will be the first thing we remember because of negativity bias. Research shows that humans are more sensitive to negative experiences due to our need for survival. Therefore, humans are more likely to notice what’s wrong, rather than what’s right.

As we are currently experiencing drastic changes to our external environments due to the impacts of COVID-19, employees and coworkers have heightened anxieties and emotions. It’s more important than ever for us to intentionally monitor our tendency to look for the negative, and notice what’s right.


Whether talking about how we feel and reflecting on our own work or the work of our colleagues or direct reports, research tells us that shifting our perspective from negative to positive will make us more successful, happy and motivated. When we react to difficult situations by complaining, feeling helpless, placing the blame on others or thinking the universe is out to get us, we are participating in a pattern of destructive, negative thinking.

At times we can all find ourselves trapped in a negative mindset or experiencing negative thoughts. The key is to be self-aware and recognize the need to identify the positive moments around us. This can be especially difficult when we are experiencing uncertain times that require teams and people to be agile and make adjustments. To sustain our relationships with those around us, we communicate with compassion and empathy and deliver feedback in ways that inspire teams to find solutions.

When we highlight the shortcomings of others, they tend to react defensively. Negative feedback is often received as a threat, which can lead to depression and anxiety. The way we provide feedback makes a difference in how people receive and act on the feedback. An ill-proportioned amount of negative feedback can be damaging to teams and individuals, as we are often emotionally invested in our work. Leaders recommend at least three positive interactions to outweigh one negative interaction.

Using these tips we create trust, show colleagues and teams we care about them and prioritize people and relationships first by noticing what’s right instead of what’s wrong.


If You See Something Say Something

Don’t wait to highlight a positive experience or someone else’s accomplishment or win, no matter how small. Make it a habit to point out positive interactions and helpful coworkers on a daily basis. Every week, people offer us support, human connection and make progress towards their goals. Look for these opportunities to manage-up others and say thank you. Don’t forget: what gets recognized, gets repeated.

The Impact of One

For some, work maybe just that; work. For others there is a clear understanding and conscious commitment to fulfilling the organization’s purpose each day. Who is one person in your organization who consistently makes a positive impact? Celebrate that person and the impact he/she makes. Write a thank you note, post a shout-out or start a “your impact means a latte” tradition at the end of each week or month.

1:1 Connections

Rounding conversations or monthly meetings and connections with employees can be used to harvest wins and discover opportunities to focus on the positive. In fact, three of the four rounding questions are focused on a positive answer and the final question addresses employees’ needs. You can often find specific examples deserving recognition by asking the rounding question, “Are there any individuals who have been especially helpful to you whom I could recognize?” The more we make it a habit to regularly connect with employees, the more often we will hear what’s right.

Track Your Wins

When we’re trying to accomplish really important goals, it’s easy to forget to celebrate progress. For one week, keep a tally of the number of times you point out a set-back and a tally of the number of times you celebrate a win. Do the wins win? If you proclaimed the negative more often, try again next week. Build a habit of celebrating wins that matter.

Think Get-to, Not Have-to

Stop yourself from thinking you “have” to do something and start thinking about things like you “get” to do them. This shift in perspective supports a positive and grateful mindset.

For Example:

  • I have to take the kids to school daily. Becomes: I get to spend extra time with my children each morning driving them to school safely in my vehicle.
  • I have so much work to do. Becomes: I get to do important work that impacts student learning across the country.

Start with a Win

Open up your daily/weekly huddle or other team meetings by having someone share a recent win or accomplishment. This focus on something positive to start the week or day can set our mindset and focus for the duration. When we start with a win, we establish a habit of looking for what’s right.

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