I’ve always been a positive thinking person and have used the phrase Robert F. Kennedy used, “Some men see things as they are and say, ‘Why?’ I dream things that never were and say, ‘Why not?’” I believe you need to always be a positive-thinking person to get through life from a personal point of view, as well as a business point of view. No one teaches you all you need to know about life when you are in school, and if they did try, you probably were half-listening.

Putting personal positive thinking aside for this column, being a positive thinker in the business community is an invaluable skill to have if you plan to fulfill your full potential, too. In April 2011, I touched on the need for positive thinking, and I suggest you go back into your library collection of this column that I know you keep next to those other very important books in your engineering library.

To continue on with this theme, here are some observations:

  • You say it can’t be done. I’m sure (based on past experience) that your competition will say it can be done, and in turn, they will probably get the job.
  • Positive thinking helps make it worthwhile to be excited to get up in the morning and take on the challenges that you look forward to slaying (the “Don Quixote hypothesis”).
  • Positive thinking can be infectious, and unlike other infections, it can be a great training and mentoring tool for those you are responsible to manage.
  • “Can do” attitude is good for you, those around you, and for each of your projects.
  • Positive thinking opens the door to new responsibilities for you, as well as new projects because the competition said it couldn’t be done for the fee, the timeline, etc.

This can-do attitude also helps you get through difficult times at work and makes it easier to overcome and complete challenging projects, clients, and contractors. It certainly helps you at home, too, and probably contributes to a longer life and a happier environment. Surely, this kind of thinking has kept me going in the HVAC industry while others have been counting the days since they were 40 years old until they retire so they can sit back and complain about life in general.

As a person-in-responsible-charge, I believe it is mandatory to be a positive thinker, although I have met others who have gotten by from being smart but also negative. An analogy of this is to think of a leader always calling retreat while the troops are anxious and confident that they can win this battle. How does that reflect back on the leader and his or her authority? I know I have had little patience over the years with those in charge that routinely are negative, and unfortunately, I’ve shown this frustration on occasion. I can’t say I would apologize for venting my frustration because I firmly believe leaders need to lead, or as Bob Dylan sang, “Don’t stand in the doorway, don’t block up the hall,” and that is exactly how I feel about negative leadership.

As a rule, owners of a companies are inherently positive thinkers otherwise they would never have taken the can-do risk to invest their hard-earned money into creating a firm and nurturing its success. I have, however, come across a few owners who just happen to be in a unique situation where they delegated the leadership of their company to others. That is the exception to the rule. I’ve even come across owners with whom I didn’t agree but whom I did recognize as the visionaries for those companies.

So how do you change negative individuals into positive individuals? Well, maybe there should be a class to tutor and mentor those people who are holding themselves and the company they work for from business success and job satisfaction. I did a search and came across a website where there is a positive thinking curriculum proposed: http://blogs.registerguard.com/nie/Positive_Thinking.pdf. Or you can simply Google “classes on positive thinking.”

Looking back over my career, I don’t recall any company that I worked for that provided lessons in positive thinking, and yet what a great way to teach your employees the skills to provide better customer service by teaching them how to overcome obstacles with can-do solutions. As I noted in my January 2007 “Tomorrow’s Environment” column titled, “Will You Please Listen To Yourself?” I chastised those who try and hide behind lame excuses such as “our fee was too low,” etc. True business leaders don’t blame others but instead take charge of the problem and go about solving it. Positive thinking leaders are proficient at this, so why not pass this column on to those who “look at the glass half empty.” Who knows? Maybe they will change their ways through the power of positive thinking! ES


You can reach McKew at hmckew@bss-consultant.comfor business development planning advice and and D-B/IPD facilitator services. For more online publications, visit www.buildingsmartsoftware.com.