How To Build A Positive, Productive, Profitable Workforce In 6 Steps

When someone asks your employees or coworkers what they do for a living, how do they respond? With excitement and enthusiasm or with defeat and disillusionment?

Too many employees and too many workplaces fall into the second category. But it doesn’t have to be that way, if you apply the six secrets found in every positive, high performing organization.

► 1. Hire right. Train right.

As you well know, one bad apple can spoil the whole cart. But you also know it can be very difficult to get rid of a bad apple or a bad employee. So approach every hiring decision with the utmost discernment.

In particular, focus your energy on recruiting and retaining people who are technically skilled and emotionally competent. In fact, they had better have both characteristics or you will have a sick workplace.

When you’re in the position of having to hire someone, look for ANY signals that tell you the new job candidate may be a drag on the positive culture you’re trying to create. You cannot afford to hire those kinds of people … because they will cost you money, rather than make you money.

In fact, I’m sure you can think of several situations where you walked into a store to buy something, totally ready to spend your money there, but some employee’s behavior was so offensive that you walked out. And instead, you spent your money at a competitor’s place of business.

Hire right. And for heaven’s sake, if the people you hire don’t have all the people skills they need, then train them right … right now.

► 2. Protect your positive norms.

If your organization has established certain norms of respectful behavior, reinforce those norms.

If, for example, employees are expected to acknowledge every customer within ten seconds of entering the store, make sure they do it. Or if you have outlawed negative talk about customers, call someone on his violation of the norm if he is trashing a customer.

Don’t let your negative people dismiss your positive cultural elements by saying, “That’s just plain stupid … or … That’s just the way John is.”

I learned this in a rather surprising way. Some years ago, when I was a university professor, I was given a performance review by my Dean. Her remarks were very complimentary, but she said, “I have one piece of negative feedback. Some of the other professors think you’re too cheerful. They think you’re overly enthusiastic.”

Of course, I was a bit shocked. I knew I was a rebel professor … because unlike many of my colleagues, I didn’t care about fancy theory and academic speculation. I simply focused my classes on the practical strategies that guaranteed a person’s personal and professional success. So yes, I was excited about that … but I never realized it turned some of the other professors off.

But then I thought about it more deeply. What was I supposed to do with that feedback? Should I become less positive and more negative to keep the negative professors happy? No way. That would be sick and dysfunctional.

In various publications and bulletin boards across the campus, the university outlined its positive norms and I was going to do my best to live out those norms. And you should do the same thing in your workplace, no matter what the negative folks might say.

► 3. Discover and share success stories.

Even though your office or organization, like every organization, has some things that could be improved, you’re also doing a lot of things right. Charge everyone with the responsibility of looking for those success stories. And then share a few of those stories at every meeting. Celebrate the positive.

It’s why I share success stories in my Tuesday Tips … to give you and everyone else an extra dose of hope. In other words, if other people have succeeded with the strategies taught in this blog, so can you.

Take Jan Hankins, a Senior Client Service Associate for the Principal Financial Group, for example. She wrote me, saying, “I followed your ‘Tuesday Tips’ for years, which have been wonderful. And I was always intrigued by what other people had to say about your ‘Journey-to-the-Extraordinary’ program, so they finally convinced me to experience your ‘Journey.’ I now realize that the ‘Tuesday Tips’ were like crayons; I learned a lot from them. But your ‘Journey’ experience filled in the pictures and changed my life. It gave me the skills and techniques to make the next 30 years of my life the best they can be. Thanks so much!”