On Sunday when I was at Hannaford’s grocery store a wonderful thing happened. As I walked out
of the store, a very happy little girl was dancing out the door with her dad. It had just started to rain hard and her dad said, “Oh no, it’s raining.” And the little girl looked up at him and said, “What’s wrong, Daddy, isn’t rain good?”
Her father and I smiled at each other and he said, “You know, you are right, rain is good.”
Positivity is infectious.
A “Yes We Can” Culture. One of the most important threads in the fabric of an energetic culture is positivity. I must say this is a major reason why I was attracted to and continue to work at Work Opportunities Unlimited. And it is a major reason why we continue to be successful.
Our positivity is centered in what I call a “Yes we can” philosophy and has been part of our culture for 33 years since Joe Leddy founded the company. Of course it started with Joe, whose infectious positivity and “Yes we can” attitude shaped our decision-making and strategies.
And this organizational “Yes we can” attitude continues today even as Joe has partially retired. Just recently I saw it when a senior manager asked our computer programmer brainstorming questions about the future of our proprietary computer software; when our most senior director of nearly 30 years engaged her team in a discussion about expectations; when I watched a Career Resource Specialist encourage a client trying to do a new task; and when our senior payroll person offered to use a new on-line screen sharing tool to help another teammate in the field learn how to navigate through a new computer process.
To create and sustain a “Yes we can” culture, we need people with the right stuff: the right mix of attitudes that formulate their behaviors. Here are five attitudes I see most often in people who contribute to sustaining a “Yes we can” culture.
- Adaptable determination. To sustain a “Yes we can” attitude one has to be determined AND be able to adapt and try something new when the first try fails or is unsuccessful. One story that molded Joe’s philosophy was the Try Another Way program developed Dr. Marc Gold. Gold was a pioneer in the field of advancing the work of people with disabilities. In his research he showed how people with very profound disabilities could learn to assemble bicycle brakes as fast as standards required. However, it took time, patience, and often hand-over-hand training with regular “let’s try another way” verbal cues.
- Happiness and sense of humor. In our successful team members I see genuine happiness and a sense of humor. And I don’t mean all the time, but I do mean most of the time and at their core. I see people who do not take themselves too seriously, who can laugh at their mistakes, and have fun with the people around them. They are not defensive when things don’t go well and perhaps they did something incorrectly or they forgot to do something.
- Curiosity. It is fun to see people who are curious and come up with new ideas. And it is these new ideas that fuel a “Yes we can” culture. I saw it when a team member used her iPhone to video record a client working so she could show him what he was doing and he could watch himself and understand what he was doing incorrectly. I experienced it yesterday as we talked about a management candidate and how we could use their talents and how we could adapt what we do to try something different.
- Resiliency. A “yes we can” culture requires people with resiliency. Can they get up and get going quickly after a setback? Can they do this without drama and bringing everyone around them down while they try to get up? And, if you are really lucky like we are, you will have positive people on your team who actually thrive when things don’t go well and use those moments to launch new ideas, which is always exciting and positive.
- Cooperative and open to change. The other attitude I see in our “Yes we can” culture is a genuine cooperativeness between and among team members. Because of the pace of business today and the changing needs of our customers, we need to be able to change constantly. And the most important attitude we need during change is cooperativeness. Most of us don’t like change, but what makes it worse is when people are uncooperative. I think cooperativeness is a very important attitude I see all around our organization.
This week I have thought about that interchange between that little girl and her dad a few times. Every organization that wants to build a “Yes we can” culture needs this type of positivity and dads and moms who say, “You know, you are right, rain is good.”