When working in broadcast news, whether as on-air talent or behind the camera as a producer, you have an incredible amount of power to determine the type of information shared with viewers. Unfortunately, when it comes to news, negative tends to win over positive news.
Former CBS News anchor Michelle Gielan reminded me recently of the mantra sometimes used in the news industry: "If it bleeds, it leads."
But once Gielan left the television industry she wanted to spread more positive news.
"I saw firsthand the power broadcasters have to shape how others viewed stresses and challenges," says Gielan, author of the new bestseller, Broadcasting Happiness: The Science of Igniting and Sustaining Positive Change. "Now as a positive psychology researcher, I study the power we all have as teachers, parents, business leaders and friends to shape how the people around us view their ability to succeed."
She adds, "The way we communicate is incredibly predictive of our long-term levels of success. We've found in our research that when business professionals not only maintain an optimistic, resilient, solutions-focused mindset but also transmit that to others, they fuel better business outcomes across the board."
In her book, Gielan shares a few simple, proven strategies that take less than two minutes a day to improve your positive communication. Here are four that she outlined to me for every business owner:
1. Use the power lead.
"When you start conversations, emails, phone calls, meetings and any other interactions with another person, begin with something positive and meaningful," she says. "Next time someone asks you how you're doing share something positive. The power lead allows you to set the tone of the conversation, and since people typically match a mood, the person you're talking to most likely will say something positive back.
"By taking the lead on the conversation, you're getting other people to focus on the positive and meaningful parts of life. Additionally, if you need to tackle serious challenges, starting with the power lead puts everyone's brain in a better place to problem-solve."
2. Ask leading questions.
"Leading questions are an ideal way to elicit new information," Gielan says. "These type of questions don't lead someone to a specific answer, they lead into positive territory.
"With your team, you can ask them to share a recent win that no one else in the room might have heard. You could ask them 'What's one way your colleague has made your job easier during the last couple of months?' These kinds of leading questions refocus people's brains on resources, successes, strengths and relationships they can tap into for motivation."
3. Praise at least once per day.
"Many of us have heard the phrase, 'when you see something, say something,'" she says. "Most of the time that warning refers to bags left behind at the airport that potentially pose a threat. That phrase is equally important to keep in mind when we see something positive someone around us is doing.
"In a recent study we did with Training Magazine, it was saddening to see that only a small percentage of respondents had reported receiving praise from a colleague or boss over the past month. Call someone out for the effort they're making and the specific ways their behavior is helping drive collective success."
4. Get others to share wins with colleagues.
"At your organization, there are many successes, big and small, happening each day that most people don't know have happened," Gielan says. "Celebrating successes could be seen as bragging, but it's those same successes that motivate everyone to achieve more. Make speaking up about success a valued part of the culture.
"Our client, Nationwide Brokerage Services, made celebrating success as part of the workday. First thing in the morning sales teams gets together in 'huddles' to talk about recent wins from the past 24 hours, as well as rally around colleagues who say they need a little extra support that day. The president of NBS credits that simple practice, along with a handful of other positive communication strategies, with increasing gross revenues for his company by hundreds of millions of dollars. Getting others to speak up regularly can make this habit part of the culture."
It's important to always look at the bright side of things, especially in business. Be an optimist. Gielan advocates that optimism, the belief that good things will happen and that our behavior matters in the face of challenges is a step in the positive direction.
"An optimistic brain has been connected with higher performance and higher levels of long-term success, Gielan says. "Optimists are much more likely to take more quick action when a problem arises because they believe that their behavior can create the desired outcome."