I recently had a conversation with a colleague about the role attitude can play in either enabling or derailing a community branding effort. We talked about how attitude is key for high performance teams to exceed objectives and how difficult it can be to lead a place (or destination) branding effort when community leadership has a “glass half-empty” outlook.
We have all probably been involved in conversations where either private sector leaders or elected political officials focus on what is wrong with our community or bemoan the difficulty of creating an effective place brand to attract capital. When leadership isn’t excited, it can be emotionally draining and is certainly a de-motivating for any team trying to position their community for capital attraction. We’ve probably also all been involved in hosting a site visit where a bad impression is created because people in the community speak negatively about it to executive thinking about making a capital investment.
My colleague (who is an economic development professional) told me about an experience he had. An old friend of his came to visit for a long weekend. On his flight back home he happened to strike up a casual conversation with the passenger sitting next to him. This person had nothing good to say about the community and in the course of a 10-minute discussion on everything that was wrong. The stranger’s attitude was definitely “glass half empty”. Upon arrival safely home my colleague’s friend called him, shared the discussion and empathized with the comment “You really have your work cut out for you.” This random passenger’s attitude had created a lasting negative image about the community.
The story made me wonder – “How many times does this happen and at what cost to a community’s efforts to create a good impression?” It also inspired me to try and compile a list of keys to creating positive attitudes in teams. So I did some online research and reflected on my 33-years in the private sector leading successful teams for Procter & Gamble.
TOP TEN TIPS TO CREATING A “GLASS HALF-FULL” ATTITUDE ON TEAMS
- Positivity leads to possibility thinking and is liberating.
- Personal ego and private agendas tend to derail a positive attitude on Teams.
- Inclusion is critical; people need to feel authentically involved.
- Genuine gratitude for contributions helps people want to contribute even more.
- Objectivity and willingness to challenge “sacred cow” assumptions creates trust.
- It is important to celebrate victories, no matter how small.
- Every problem presents an opportunity if you look for the learning.
- Putting people in positions where they can leverage their strengths creates confidence.
- Trust among team members (and supporters) is a foundation for success.
- Fun matters.
Then I found an absolutely remarkable story that not only succinctly summarized the keys to creating a positive attitude, but brought the principles to life in an unforgettable way. I found the amazing story of Nick Vujicic. Please take a moment to watch the video about Nick before reading on. It will help put the lessons below in context.
LESSONS FROM NICK’S LIFE (and my translation for reapplication in economic development) –
Passion – Everybody involved need to believe that what you are doing will make a meaningful difference. In my experience, understanding how the work will not only help make the local economy stronger today, but also create opportunities for the community’s children to succeed in the future helps stimulate passion. This doesn’t happen automatically. As a leader, you need to engage the community in a discussion about what success means to the future economic well being of the community. And, you can’t simply have the conversation once. You need to ensure everybody involved understands the potential impact of success, and you need to keep the vision alive by talking about it frequently.
Dream – You don’t want people simply building a wall brick-by-brick. You want people building a cathedral. The goal needs to be big and bold. You know the goal is big when it feels just out of reach and will take work to achieve. Putting a man on the moon is a great example of a dream that encouraged people to overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles to success. You need to capture people’s heart not just their head.
Energy – Positive energy begets positive energy. The saying “birds of a feather stick together” has merit. People on your team with a positive attitude will attract other people to your project who bring a positive attitude. Most important is that you set the example and keep a “glass half-full” attitude as well. If you become negative, the team will begin to adopt a “glass half-empty” attitude and it will dramatically lower your probability of success.
Message – You need to be able to clearly and persuasively talk about your community’s brand promise and the benefits it provides capital investors who choose to evaluate your location for their business. A good place (destination) branding exercise will lead to a differentiated, relevant, competitive and authentic message. It is important everybody involved knows what the promise is and how to talk about it in a way that is both empowering and inspiring.
Motivation – Remember, it is not about you. It’s about achieving the end result and doing what is right for your community. Selfish motivations breed distrust and quickly erode attitude. If decisions are focused on doing what is right and not just what is easy, then trust is enhanced. Without a foundation of trust, nothing of significance can be accomplished.
Never Give Up – Leading a place (destination) branding effort is hard work. So many things can go wrong. So many people are involved. How can you ever prevent somebody from speaking to a fellow passenger on a plane and unfairly trashing your community? The fact is you can’t. But, it is not a reason to give up. There are plenty of positive things you can do to increase the probability your community brand promise will be heard and internalized by a potential capital investor. Instead of having a “glass half-empty” attitude and complaining about what you can’t control, it is far better to have a “glass half-full” attitude and concentrate on making a difference on what you can influence.
Hopefully you watched the first video clip about Nick. However, to really appreciate why I believe Nick’s story is an amazing demonstration of the power of a positive attitude, I encourage you to watch this second short video as well. I am confident it will touch your heart and inspire your work. Be forewarned, you are going to laugh and you may get a little misty eyed. But, I guarantee you will conclude that no matter how challenging the work you are facing in branding your community, it is definitely an achievable objective.
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