advertisement
advertisement
The Fast Company Executive Board is a private, fee-based network of influential leaders, experts, executives, and entrepreneurs who share their insights with our audience.

Five ways to foster a positive company culture

Now more than ever, positive leadership is vital.

Five ways to foster a positive company culture
[Studio Romantic / Adobe Stock]

I can remember this conversation like it happened yesterday. I had just presented in an important meeting. After, an executive pulled me aside to compliment my presentation and gave me a piece of advice. She said, “You should be less positive; this is a big important project and we could miss the goal.” She was afraid my optimism could set me up for failure.

advertisement
advertisement

That comment got me thinking about my leadership approach. There are all types of leaders: authoritarian, transformational, visionary, etc. But the worst kind of leader is a non-authentic one. I have always been a positive person—in my personal and professional life. That positivity was born from a lot of losses growing up that taught me perspective. For me, positivity starts with a mindset. I love this quote by Leon Brown: “Life is a reflection of what you think. If your thoughts are negative, the world you see will be the same.” This mentality inspires me every day. As CMO of high-performing teams, I am passionate about leading and inspiring my colleagues through positivity, empathy, and pragmatism.

Now more than ever, positive leadership is vital. And in my experience, leading with positivity results in a thriving, innovative, and happy work culture. Here are five ways I cultivate a culture of positivity in my organization:

1. Celebrate success early and often. Show appreciation. Employees feel appreciated when they are recognized for their hard work and achievements. I have seen that positive recognition improves morale, strengthens team engagement, and makes work a much happier place. A simple gesture of thanks can take just a minute, but it can stick with someone for a lifetime. There are many ways to celebrate success. It can be as simple as a verbal acknowledgment of gratitude or as elaborate as a public recognition for everyone to see. Twice a year, I formally give out gold star awards to honor individuals and teams for their outstanding contributions. Every day, I acknowledge excellence with a “verbal” gold star that has no financial value. I find that celebrating successes big and small brings out the best in people.

advertisement

2. Practice the positive “no.” Time is precious. It’s something you can’t buy and that you must protect. In the current hybrid environment, the blurred lines between work and personal life can cause burnout. It’s important to set boundaries and be able to say no—a “positive no.” I believe it is important to say “no” to everything that distracts you or diverts you from your priorities (personal or professional) and say “yes” to what counts—our own needs, values, and priorities. In his book The Power of a Positive No, William Ury outlines strategies to enable you to be firm about your values and state your opinions while also respecting others.

3. Embrace mistakes and celebrate learnings. Mistakes are a gift. They teach us, shape us and, if experienced fully, guide us toward the right outcome. I say to my teams, “I will never get upset if you make a mistake; just learn from it and don’t make the same mistake twice.” Leaders need to empower teams to dream big, shoot for the moon, and not be afraid to fail. I strive to create an environment where new ideas are welcomed, mistakes are celebrated, and innovation thrives.

4. Stay positive and be pragmatic in a difficult situation. As leaders, we are faced with challenging situations all the time. It’s easy to fall into a negative mindset or even place blame on others. In my experience, this is the most important time to stay grounded, not get emotional, and give your team confidence that it’s not the end of the world and there is always a path forward.

advertisement

5. Find your “why.” Everyone is searching for purpose whether they realize it or not. Purpose provides individuals and organizations with a rallying cry: it guides us, motivates us, and inspires a thriving culture. In this turbulent and dynamic world, it’s important to find your why. My organization discovered our “why” over the last year. Purpose is a reminder that the work we do matters. It provides the organization (and me personally) a true North Star.

This month I had the privilege of interviewing Chris Gardner, author of the critically acclaimed “Pursuit of Happyness,” entrepreneur, and philanthropist. During our conversation he advised the audience to “Go put a dent in the universe.” Those words really resonated with me. Our teams are spending the better part of their lives under our care. The words we use, the environments we create will have a profound impact on their lives today and for years to come. The dent I want to leave on the universe is positive, empathetic leadership that inspires greatness from the teams I serve. What dent do you want to leave?


Kim Salem-Jackson is Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer of Akamai. 

advertisement
advertisement
advertisement