Leader 2 Leader Blog, Industry,

By: Jon Gordon 

Some staff will roll their eyes when they hear a school leader talk about positivity. They think of positivity as pollyannaish, weak, and annoying. They mistakenly think positivity is about rah-rah and motivation. But real positivity is really about optimism, grit, mental toughness, and energy that delivers real results. Positivity doesn’t ignore reality; it maintains optimism and belief in order to create a better reality.

Positivity attracts great people to your school and helps you build a great culture. It is the glue that fosters essential relationships and connections and helps you overcome the negativity that sabotages your school’s vision and mission to impact students.

Too many people think you must choose between positivity and success. The truth is you don’t have to choose. Positivity leads to success. It’s the way to lead and perform if you want to win. Just ask the Los Angeles Dodgers and Rams. Clemson Football. Miami Heat. Tampa Bay Lightning, In-N-Out Burger, Snap, and our numerous Energy Bus Schools that I’ve worked with that embrace positivity and succeed.

Positivity is the competitive advantage in your school, and it leads to more engaged teachers and greater student performance. If you don’t believe it or have some doubters among your staff, you can share the following proof of positivity with them.

Benefits of a Positive Perspective

How you see the world determines the world you see. A positive perspective causes you to see the world in a positive light, which helps you see the good that is happening right now and create positive possibilities tomorrow. Positivity broadens your perspective allowing you to see and find solutions, whereas negativity narrows it and causes you to focus on problems. A positive mindset sees challenges as opportunities, fosters adaptability and growth, and powers you to thrive through change. We know that schools are always dealing with change, and positivity and optimism allow you and your staff to embrace change and get better because of it.

The Power of a Positive Mindset

Research from Duke University shows that optimists work harder and are more likely to succeed. The researchers found that because optimists believe in a brighter and better future, they take the actions necessary to create it. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. What we believe so often determines what we create in life and in schools.

In fact, one of the top two key factors in student performance is collective teacher efficacy. This is the collective belief of staff that they can impact their students. It turns out that when staff believe together they can impact their students, these students produce extraordinary results.

In positive schools, everyone talks about how to impact students and create solutions.

A positive mindset also nourishes your mind and brain with positive thoughts and beliefs that maximize your ability and potential. I’ve never heard anyone say someone needs to be more negative to get better. Most of us need more positivity because we constantly battle personal and professional challenges. Positivity helps you overcome the negativity that discourages you and the adversity that makes you want to give up. So, when faced with adversity, naysayers, criticism and rejection, a positive mindset leads to a higher state of mind that leads to more grit, resilience, optimism, belief, growth, and success.

We have witnessed this firsthand in our Energy Bus for Schools, a program that teaches teachers and students how to be positive and productive members of their school and local community. I recently wrote a book about this program with Jim Van Allan, PhD, who did his doctoral work on the Energy Bus’ impact on school culture and performance. In studying this program, he found that a positive attitude and mindset boosted morale, engagement, and results in school.

Delivering Positive Results

Research shows that positive leaders are better able to garner the support of their team and rally them to create a shared vision. A positive school leader is simply a better leader. They see a positive future and work with their staff to create it. With a positive mindset, a positive school leader can encourage themselves and their team through challenges and change and develop relationships that lead to enhanced engagement and performance. Study history and it’s clear that pessimists don’t change the world. Throughout history, it’s the positive leaders who have made the greatest impact in education and changed the world.

Building Great Cultures

When talking about positive school leadership, we must also recognize that positive school leaders build great cultures that lead to sustained success. Great cultures don’t happen by accident. They are created by positive school leaders who live and share core values, implement success principles, and recruit and retain teachers who bring the principles and values to life and reinforce their culture. Positive school leaders invest in the root (culture, people, purpose) that lead to the fruit (results, success). In writing The Energy Bus for Schools, we interviewed numerous school leaders and gathered over a hundred strategies that positive school leaders have used to improve their culture and drive incredible results. The countless examples and proof of investing in culture are hard to discount and ignore.

Positive School Staffs Outperform Negative School Staffs

Speaking of results, no one creates success alone. We all need a team to be successful, and positivity is essential to building a strong team. Teams that stay positive through adversity together grow stronger and succeed together. Negative teams divide, crumble, and fall part. Positive teams unite, connect, commit, and get stronger together. In negative schools, everyone complains about the problems and the students. In positive schools, everyone talks about how to impact students and create solutions. In negative schools staff feel discouraged and defeated, and in positive schools they stay encouraged and turn defeats into defining moments.

One of the best characteristics of positive schools is that they address and remove the negativity that sabotages morale and the mission of the school. Negativity destroys too many schools, and too many school leaders allow the negativity to persist. Positive school leaders and their staff address negativity and attack problems, not people. They create a positive culture so strong the energy vampire is either transformed or they get off the bus themselves.

Building Strength

Relationships are the foundation that builds a positive, connected, and strong school, and guess what helps build a great relationship? Positivity. Couples who had more positive interactions at a ratio of 5 positive to 1 negative or greater were more likely to stay married. Couples who compliment, support, and encourage one another are happier and stronger together. Numerous studies demonstrate that positive relationships at work lead to higher engagement, greater retention and improved morale and performance.

And the research in our schools demonstrates that when a school principal has positive relationships with their teachers, teacher performance goes up and when students have a positive relationship with their teacher, student performance is enhanced. Positive relationships lead to positive results.

I could go on and on about how positivity makes you a better school leader, teacher, coach, parent, etc. To build something or build up someone, optimism, positivity, and belief are essential for building greatness. If you don’t have it, you can’t share it. Look around and it’s clear the world desperately needs you to share positivity.

Positivity isn’t the only ingredient for success, but it’s the one that makes you, everything you do, and everyone around you better. Positivity is the difference, and it is the key to you making a greater difference in our schools.