(By Sean Chapple) In my previous article I listed the nine essential principles required to significantly increase levels of performance in your team; and ultimately your success. They formed the mnemonic ADVENTURE:
Ø Adopt a positive viewpoint
Ø Develop an appetite for risk
Ø Venture into unknown territory
Ø Expect to encounter setbacks
Ø Never give up
Ø Trust in self and others
Ø Understand the outcome
Ø Respect individual differences
Ø Enjoy the experience
In this article I want to look at the first principle; Adopt a Positive Viewpoint.
You may have heard of the psychological term positive mental attitude. If not, it is a term that describes a mental phenomenon in which the central idea is that you can increase achievement through optimistic thought processes. It implies that you have a vision of good-natured change and a state of mind that continues to seek, find and execute ways to improve, regardless of the circumstances.
Likewise, to improve, you need to remove any negative thoughts that hold you back. To be successful in leadership, you need to orient on success instead of brooding over failure. Find a relentlessly positive leader in any field and one can also find a successful and energetic one.
Using positive language and talking to oneself, releases powerful endorphins, or feel-good chemicals, in your brain. The same type of chemicals released during physical exercise. The connection is that, by getting more sleep, more exercise, and thinking more uplifting thoughts, your energy will soar. A positive mood will raise energy levels, give power to the spoken word, and boost professional presence. Team members will bounce off that and it will make them positive and more productive too.
A Successful Failure
During an attempt to ski to the Geographical North Pole, a fuel leak from a damaged fuel can in my sledge contaminated the team radio batteries. The fuel caused the battery to short and without power the radio and other vital safety equipment could not be used. This was a major setback and a serious blow to the team who had spent two years preparing for this journey.
Fortunately, I was carrying a small emergency beacon that I activated to alert our home team that something was wrong, although without a radio I could not let them know all the details.
Two days later a light aircraft appeared and, using ground to air radio, I was able to explain our situation. Unfortunately, the aircraft had no spare batteries on-board. It was decision time. With no radio link to our home team do we continue, or do we abort? It would take too long for the aircraft to return with a new battery, as the Arctic sea ice would melt before we reached the Pole causing further risks.
After exploring if any other options were available it became clear - the mission had to be aborted. Not every act and decision you make will be supported 100%. In fact, there will be times as a leader that you may feel very alone. This is when a leader needs the confidence to make the difficult decisions. On this occasion, the decision to abort did not sit well with some who, understandably, were focused on reaching the Pole, but as a leader the safety and well-being of the team rested with me and as HRH Prince Phillip said on my return ‘discretion is better than disaster’.
However, landing an aircraft on a frozen Arctic Ocean is not an easy process. Aircrafts need large areas of flat, obstacle-free stable ice. After looking for somewhere safe to land the pilot informed us that the closest safe landing strip was some thirty miles away - behind us. We had no option but to retrace our steps and rendezvous with the aircraft later.
Negativity in some team members began to visibly surface. This can become a real danger in the Arctic where the lack of focus can result in serious accidents. Despite being disappointed at the setback, we had to quickly move on from the setback, refocus our mind-set, energy and attention onto the new plan. By maintaining a positive outlook, I was able to refocus team efforts beyond the setback onto the new plan and ultimately succeed in returning safely.
Maintain Your Positivity
Here are three top tips for maintaining a positive viewpoint:
1. Keep learning - Learning develops leadership ability, technical skills and builds confidence. Reading, attending training courses, listening to inspirational speakers and finding a mentor will support the leader’s journey.
2. Keep good company - Socialising with people who are motivated, self-discipline and committed provides drive. People with integrity provide a sense of purpose in your whole outlook.
3. Avoid negative influences - Nothing will demote a leader faster than people who never produce results, seldom keep their word or always see the negative side of situations.
In the next article we will look at the second principle - Develop an Appetite for Risk.
Sean Chapple has planned, managed and led over 20 expeditions beyond the Arctic and Antarctic circles. He spent an earlier career as an officer in the Royal Marines gaining operational and management experiences across the globe and has since held positions in senior commercial leadership and consultancy roles. For over 20 years Sean has been involved in building and leading high performance teams in a diverse range of industries. He is also a motivational speaker and author of several books.
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