Thursday, December 23, 2010

Article I Wrote for CWC Intranet

Envisioning A Workplace of Possibility

The holidays are approaching -- a time of wonder and delight, mistletoe and magic. Yet with the joy and delights of the season, also comes added stress and pressure, particularly here at Coldwater Creek. These darkest days of December are merely prelude to month-end, the new calendar year, fiscal year-end, performance reviews, tax season…the list goes on. With the recent downsizing, we are also faced with more work, less resources, longer hours, greater demands, and more change. Often, when pressure and demands rise, so too do stress, negativity, resentment and overwhelm. But there is another option….

What would it be like to come to work and be surrounded by individuals doing their best work, focused on what matters most and smiling?

How would it feel to enjoy the challenge of the season, connect as a team in pursuit of a common goal and laugh while working, even when mistakes are made and corrected?

What would it be like to generate in our workplace a sense of enduring optimism, a mindset of possibility and an energetic presence which conveys connection, care and compassion?

What would it feel like to be seen by others for our innate greatness and, in turn, see others for their innate greatness as well?

While it might sound somewhat na├»ve or idealistic, the workplace envisioned above is possible. It is an option we all have to create for ourselves, for all those with whom we work, for Coldwater Creek. There is no doubt that times have been hard lately. I know first hand the experience of loss and disorganization common to so many. Yet despite these challenges, a choice stands before us – the choice to be in our present reality and optimize the experience. A choice to design the culture we want to work in and envision it, create it, live it.

A sound business case supports this choice. Ample studies on mood and productivity tell us that:

• people in good moods think more positively and comprehensively during decision-making
• upbeat moods boost cooperation and teamwork
• positive environments lead to increased performance and profitability
• positive people are generally stronger, wiser, more resilient and more socially integrated

And if ever there were a time for better decision-making, teamwork, performance, wisdom, resilience and profitability, that time is now!

Shining Our Light

So, how do we make this happen? We know that not everyone is naturally inclined toward positivism (OK, I have just “out-ed” myself…). It is true; for some of us, more than others, optimism and positivity require practice. Yet whether we are born with the capacity or not, we can learn to be happier and more optimistic and this learning curve begins with intention -- our willingness to take stock, in the moment, of any given situation and choose to see a glass half-full reality. As they say, like with plants, “where we shine the light, it grows.” We can choose to shine our light on what is working, what we can do, what is available to us, and in doing so, shift our attention toward a positive view of reality.

To be clear – I am not advocating a Pollyanna, disregard of the real human experience. What I am talking about is building a capacity and willingness to create distinctions between the events in life that cause true suffering for individuals and our own, often trifling, common workplace occurrences which throw us into hyperbolic levels of irritation. Consider…

The co-worker who talks too loudly at her desk phone
The boss who asks you to come in on the weekend to finish the project
The colleague who forgets to include you on an email string
The line item on your budget which is cut
The training you were supposed to attend which gets canceled

While none of these situations is enjoyable, neither is any cause for unnecessary belaboring about how bad things are, how awful life is or how frustrated you are. In the end, these experiences, while irritating, are simply workplace reality happening to us. Nothing more, nothing less.

In the end, it is our interpretation of reality that matters most. When we interpret situations like the above examples as “things being done to us” or perceive ourselves as “victims of circumstance,” we are bound to fall prey to negativity and subsequent negative outcomes. However, when we opt for a more positive interpretation of events, we often feel better, undergo less stress and often experience more positive outcomes.

To cultivate the shift I am suggesting requires each of us to bring our best Self to work every day – our best centered, connected, forward-looking Self -- and thereby bring with it the opportunity to positively impact those around us. We must “infect” our workplace with a radiating positivity that lifts us up, allowing optimism to prevail over the tyranny of pessimism. In such a climate, everyone enjoys greater attention, greater resilience, greater problem-solving and greater focus on what matters most in every moment.

So I put out this call to all of us today: Let’s focus on what is possible and positive and begin spreading it through our workplace. Let’s take what current studies of brain science and emotional intelligence have proven -- that positive emotions are contagious – and choose to infuse our days with generative emotions which evoke more of the same – joy, gratitude, amusement, hope, pride, inspiration. By doing so, we might not only enjoy our time here more each day, but we are bound to move this organization closer to success, step by optimistic step.

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