In 1952, Norman Vincent Peale suggested that we all can profoundly affect our own productivity in his blockbuster book, The Power of Positive Thinking. For generations, people have been taught to believe that optimistic thinking comes quite naturally to most people, if they would just think about it. Unfortunately, it wasn’t until the early
1990s that psychologists showed that humans are more naturally programmed and find it intuitively easier to think and talk about all that is wrong. In other words, our human chemical mental makeup, reinforced by our generally pessimistic culture makes us–you guessed it–naturally negative.
The effect of this negativity on our personal lives is the subject of another discussion. Yet this approach to the world around us also has profound consequences for our professional lives–particularly in the way we interact with people who report to us. Indeed, in my consulting work, I’ve found that owners of financial planning firms tend to focus on, and even obsess over, what’s wrong with their employees, rather than what they do right.
This trend is particularly evident in employment evaluations. An astonishing 65% of American employees reported receiving no positive recognition on the job during the past year, as reported by Tom Rath and Donald O. Clifton in their book, How Full Is Your Bucket? (Gallup Press; 2004). As a result, these employees were less likely to be productive at work compared to their peers who received positive recognition, were twice as likely to leave their jobs, and three times as likely to fail to meet client needs. As a result, organizations that have fewer than 20 employees (like the majority of independent planning firms) suffer significantly all the way to the bottom line because of it.
I hope we have all experienced the profound effects of positive thinking in our daily lives. Some of us even put such thinking into practice. Many of us know how much more we can accomplish when we find someone who positively encourages and believes in us as much, if not more, than we believe in ourselves. On the other hand, we know how easily our spirit, ideas, and enthusiasm for life or work can be killed when one negative person confronts us. So why aren’t more employers dishing out more plates of positive nourishment?
Over the past three years, I have facilitated more than 200 positive employee evaluations for financial planning firms. Any good business manager knows that conducting employee performance evaluations reaps tremendous benefits, including increased employee productivity, fewer mistakes, higher quality work, a better working culture, and an increased desire to share in the vision of the company, which creates a strong sense of loyalty toward the firm and its owner. The problem is that many financial planners simply don’t know how to conduct a good evaluation of their employees to achieve these positive results.