Positive Thinking is Strategic

When leaders communicate their optimism, have you ever noticed it can be met with resistance or discounted as “less than” the powerful facts of doom and gloom.  

Positive Thinking.  Pollyanna.  Seeing the world through rose colored glasses.  Not being practical or realistic. 

I was having a conversation recently with a board member of an arts organization I was coaching and consulting with. He remarked that when I first arrived, they were surprised at how positive I was – especially in the face of what I was being brought in to help them address.  Some didn’t believe that I was really seeing the problems, and that I was “just a cheerleader.”  He then shared that later, as they interviewed Executive Director candidates through a search process, he learned that their problems weren’t so bad. Other organizations faced similar (and worse) challenges, and had come out of them okay.

With this additional data, he now saw the “facts” of the organization as I saw them… in a positive light.  Everything was now different to him – but nothing had changed!

What I mean by positive thinking, is quite deep and evidentiary based.  

I look for the evidencethe tangible and necessary building blocks to success that are present (in some cases there will be many, in other cases only a few) –  and then bring them into the forefront. Build upon them, leverage them, monetize them.  Create the communications and organizational systems and culture that help to support them. Reinforce the positive behaviors and create momentum around them. 

Find  – and then use – the positives strategically, so that you can reach your goals and others may benefit.

Whether I’m going into an organization during a time of change and transition or working with a coaching client, I look for and help them find the unique positive attributes, behaviors, and dynamics that exist, and together determine how to build upon them as we create a Next Chapter. 

In many cases, the client doesn’t see the positives. Or discounts them. At first.  

But then, they see the outcomes of this strategic approach: an uptick in individual donations, or a new confidence in the staff, or increased press coverage and multiple data points showing that (positive) momentum is building.

As you think about where your organization, or project, is going – and you’re looking at what is needed to get you there, to the successful finish line – and as you are creating the list of what needs to get done, I invite you to also create a [Positive] Inventory Checklist with your answers to the following questions:

  • What do we/I/they do well, currently? Really take time to think here.
  • Why do we need that in order to reach our goals?
  • What strategies will I use to reinforce/amplify/celebrate this good behavior/action?

I continue to find that the way to create the change that you envision, is to see and then reinforce the positive.  What’s the alternative? To focus on the downward spiral, to see the evidence of failure, to look at the data showing that what you are aiming for is not possible?

My premise is that the world needs you to be successful and thriving, and the evidence I see shows that by focusing on the positive, the strengths of what already is, creates the building blocks so critical to moving forward boldly.

It’s also a wonderful way to move through your day.

To your success!


Kathryn R Martin,
“Next Chapter” Coach
Leadership Transition Strategist & Professional Interim CEO

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