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GREAT IDEAS: The Power of a Positive Team by Jon Gordon {Interview}

Lessons on “feeding your positive dog” to improve team performance

Jon Gordon photo

Author of 15 books including bestsellers The Energy Bus and The Power of Positive Leadership, Jon Gordon's principles have been put to the test by Fortune 500 companies, professional sports teams, hospitals and non-profits. 

Here, his practical lessons from our interview on making teams more positive, cohesive, stronger and better. 

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Research shows positive teams outperform negative teams. One negative person can totally sabotage the team, the organisation, and the customer experience.

Positive teams create positive cultures. Every day you're creating your culture by what you think, by what you say, and by what you do.

Communication, connection, commitment, and caring. These are the Four Cs, the key foundation for any great relationship.

Where there's a void in communication, negativity fills it. So as a leader, make sure you're filling that void with positive communication. Talk about the vision. Lead with optimism. Lead with belief.

A team's collective energy and optimism is made up of each person's belief and optimism. So as a team, you need to be collectively positive.

During setbacks try to stay future focused: "Okay, we had this obstacle, but here's where we're going now.”

Feed your positive dog. There are two “dogs” inside each of us. One dog is positive, optimistic, and energetic dog. One is mean spirited, angry, and pessimistic. Who wins in a fight? The one you feed the most.

Talk to yourself, don’t listen to yourself. Triathlete Dr James Gills says this: “If I listen to myself, I hear all the negative, but if I talk to myself, I feed myself with encouragement.”

Feed the positive. Weed the negative. Talk about this as a team and say, "It's not okay to be negative. It's not okay to be an energy vampire. We have to be our best for ourselves and for each other.”

We don't give up because it's hard, we give up because we get discouraged. So it's about staying encouraged and believing that the best is yet to come, even though it may not look like it right now.

Encourage means to put courage into someone. Encouraging others to have that courage to keep moving forward, that's a leader's job.

Very important as a leader to know that you are contagious. If stressed, try to think of things that make you feel grateful, because you can’t be stressed and thankful at the same time.

Tough love works, but only when love comes first. So it really should be love tough. If your team knows that you love them and you care about them, then you earn the right to challenge them.

Put We before Me. Everybody wants the other people to be committed, they want their team members to be committed, but I always tell them, "You go first. You lead the way. You be the committed one.”

Try each giving 1% more every day.  A little bit more time, energy, effort, focus, care. If a team is made up of 35 people, that's 35% every day of improvement. You will get to be a whole lot better as a team when you do that.

Jon’s GREAT EIGHT, eight getting to know you questions we ask all our authors.

Recommended book: Well, besides my book The Energy Bus, I would recommend a book called A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by my friend Donald Miller.

If you could co-author a book with anyone in the world who would it be and what’s the book title? My wife. She is truly amazing. She's raised our two children, done an incredible job. We're celebrating 22 years of marriage and we will write a book one day and we're going to call it Relationship Grit.

Best advice you could share? We don't create our world outside in, we create inside out. So I would share the advice that the power is on the inside. It may seem like your circumstances have power over you, but you have the power over your circumstances. When you put a coffee bean into hot water, what happens to the water? It transforms into coffee. We need to be the coffee bean and transform every environment we're in. We have that power.

What's been your lowest moment? My lowest moment was when I lost my job during the dot com crash and I thought my life was over. I didn't know how was going to support my family. My wife almost left me because I was so miserable and negative. I was depressed. That was a very low moment, but it was the beginning of everything I do now.

How did you recover from it? I remember I said, "Why am I here? What am I born to do? Why am I so miserable?" And writing and speaking came to me. I'd never done it before, but I said, "All right, I'm going to try to encourage others the way I need to be encouraged right now." And it's funny, the more I started to share, to help others, I benefited. I'm the one who improved as I started to improve others.

How do you relax? I like to take walks on the beach, just long walks where I get a lot of great ideas. So walks of gratitude and prayer. I call them "thank you walks."

What is the secret of success? To love, serve, and care. We love others. We love what we do. Do you love it? You'll become great at it. You'll work hard at it to become great. You don't love it, you'll give up along the way.

What's your prediction for 2025? I'm an optimist, is hopefully we will be more connected, more united, and my hope is that we will get back to a lot organic farming and organic eating in our society.

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