The power of positivity.


In the face of adversity, we make choices. We decide how and to what extent we will involve ourselves in tackling conflicts. There are organizational conflicts and personnel conflicts. Even personal ones. We can’t control how others will act. We can only control how we will respond to crises, changes, and situations.

There is nothing more disheartening to me than encountering “professionals” that let negativity dictate their interactions with students, colleagues, and parents. I am not immune to the fact that the demands placed on teachers are limitless. Administrators find themselves equally as burdened by mandates, changing directives, disgruntled parents and staff, finicky students, and the daily grind of what is the life of an administrator. Those of us that enjoy our work tend to thrive on these challenges; we enjoy brainstorming solutions and problem solving in order to improve our schools and learning experiences for students.

Enter the power of positivity. As administrators, we cannot expect our staff members to exude positivity without demonstrating this quality through our leadership. Kim Cameron of the Center for Positive Organizational Scholarship, the author of Positive Leadership, is a useful resource for this topic. While some of our schools focus on maintaining daily operations and remaining status quo (or are frankly just in survival mode), others are interested in taking learning to the next level for the entire organization. What formerly was good enough just isn’t good enough anymore. Cameron refers to this as positive deviancy, going beyond the norm in a positive direction, which will cause organizations to flourish, not just exist.

Consider this graphic that details how organizational strategies can be based on the positive:


Focusing on the positives in these four domains: climate, meaning, communication, and relationships, will enable leaders to take the next step in supporting a flourishing organization. (Notice what is at the heart of all of these domains: people. We’re truly in the people business.)

It easier to creative a positive learning culture in a school experiencing success. The difficulties lie in times of adversity. When budgets are cut. When the pressure is on to perform. When children’s home lives aren’t ideal. When there is conflict among staff. When the administrative team isn’t supportive. When there aren’t enough resources.

We talk of reform and of change. So many in my PLN and school organization are dedicated to improving education for their students and children, yet each day we encounter others in our communities who continue to resist and thus dampen our efforts. We cannot stand for this negativity. We cannot tolerate excuses.

Instead, we must lead positively and support our colleagues along the way. What are some ways you’ve remained positive in your leadership efforts? How do you promote positivity in your organization? I’ve found these simple strategies to be successful:

  • Smile. Smile at people when you greet them. Smile when they say something amazing. Smile when they say something that exasperates you. If you give the impression that you are frustrated, upset, worried, etc., the people with whom you’re interacting will know it.
  • Keep a folder called “The Good.” I have two. One is in my desk drawer and it’s where I file the thank you cards, children’s artwork, letters from parents, note from staff…and the other is in my Outlook inbox where I store much of the same. At those times when I say to myself, “How can I keep up with the demands of this gig? Why do I do this?” I turn to the folders. And I read. And I smile. And I remember very clearly why I do this.
  • Don’t act unless it’s in the best interest of the children. Don’t speak it, say it, do it, unless it benefits kids. Don’t waste energy on things that don’t. Being negative takes more energy than it’s worth. Did you know that?
  • Address the negative. Just like teachers use planned ignoring rather skillfully in their classrooms with students, there are some instances of negativity within an organization that are best ignored. Others are not. When the negativity seeps into the everyday actions of teachers, thus impacting life for students, it is no longer okay. Work with people. Help them see how their negative influences are detrimental to learning and are holding back the organization from greater success.
  • Celebrate. Celebrate everything, particularly the small successes. Help everyone in your organization see the value in what they do. Create a culture where it’s okay to brag. Share! Don’t limit your celebrations to within your school walls- be sure everyone in your community knows how excited you are about your work with kids!

“If you will call your troubles experiences, and remember that every experience develops some latent force within you, you will grow vigorous and happy, however adverse your circumstances may seem to be.” -John Heywood

16 Replies to “The power of positivity.”

  1. With all the negative reinforcement that people have over their lives, it’s challenging to stay positive. But it’s possible! I really like your idea about reviewing the great thank you cards, etc, when you’re feeling down.

    1. Thanks for your comments, Sarah! I agree we are often bombarded with negative reinforcement, and I know it’s difficult to stay positive at times. Having that constant reminder of all of the “right” we’ve done in our work and the lives we’ve impacted helps keep us focused and ready to face each day’s challenges!

  2. Great stuff Lyn!

    It is always nice to read posts like this because it helps us realize how powerful our actions can be. We all have great days and not so great days, but how we deal with those not so great days says a lot about us. No matter how stressful and difficult the job may be, we still get the opportunity to affect the lives of children. Keep helping to spread the positive energy both throughout your building and your PLN!!

    1. How true that it is how we deal with the “not so great days” that helps define us in our professional roles. Our roles in the lives of children is so important! We can’t let negative thoughts interfere with our work with them. Thanks for your support, Justin!

  3. Lyn,
    Thank you so much for this great post. Your thoughts are spot on where we need to be as leaders. I join you in your efforts “we cannot stand for this negativity, we cannot tolerate excuses.” We must in fact face our own insecurities and speak from our hearts that which we know is right.

    1. Thank you for your comments, Katie! How true that we must face our own insecurities. Even some of the best leaders still struggle with confrontation and how to approach problems with negativity head on. We have to get past what’s uncomfortable and have those “squirmy” conversations. It’s what’s best for kids!

    1. Funny you mention Fish!, Tom, we read the book together as a faculty last year and have incorporated the philosophies into our organization! Our staff has done a great job with: choose your attitude, play, make their day, and be present. Great read! Also recommend Schools of Fish for ways to incorporate these philosophies into the classroom with students!

  4. Great post Lyn! My Favorite new quote that I took from Mike Mattos at a PLC conference is “we can not let the educational terrorists hold us hostage in the building.” Yes, there will be some negative people, but don’t let them stop you!!

    1. Great thoughts from your conference! I agree not letting the negative thoughts getting in the way of working positively is a fantastic approach. Thanks for your comments!

  5. Thanks for your piece on this. We ourselves are responsible for our own personal happiness and can choose to surround ourselves with those who are effervescent and positive rather than those who are a drain and negative. I choose the former, and it makes my day so much better in the face of each of those challenges that you mention. At tonight’s staff meeting, I talked about each challenge that we face is an opportunities for us to collaborate together, to solve the problem together, and enoy the rewards of our work together. Failure only occurs when you quit!

    Well done.

    1. Cale, thanks so much for your comments….it sounds like you’re doing your best to be a positive leader and encourage your staff to be the same… love your last line!

  6. What great points. Recently I started a new full time teaching position at a community college. I feel that there is a lack of some of the improtant points discussed in the article. My colleagues do not celebrate each others achievments and often take the joy out of them. They seem to be happy talking about eachother and do not try to find the positve in each other. I am hoping that with time and having a postive attitude that this work environemnt will change for the better. I will definitely follow this blog for there is some great articles. Thank you. PS Where is the spell check? LOL!

    1. Maureen, thank you for reading and for your thoughtful comments!
      It can be so discouraging when you’re surrounded by negativity. It’s really disheartening to hear conflict exists among colleagues, particularly when there is a lack of appreciation for the efforts of others. What’s scary to me is that often times, those people don’t realize the impact their attitudes can have on the organization, and therefore, on the students. I think if we all take a step back and examine our attitudes and the influence they can have on our work with kids, we’d see a lot less negativity and a lot more collaborative, supportive efforts.

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