When faced with leading a meeting—whether in person, online or some digitally-assisted mixture of both—most of us reach for the extrovert switch and turn on the charismatic side of our personalities. It’s the part that enjoys taking charge of a room.
But a recent research review suggests this type of extroversion—in simple terms, comfort being the center of attention—may not be enough to ensure an effective session. In an analysis of 25 leadership studies, Dana Joseph, Ph.D, of the University of Central Florida concluded positivity—or the tendency to see the bright side of a situation—is a better indicator of success in most situations than just being outgoing.
Professor Joseph explains the findings this way: “Positive affect allows people to be inspirational, motivational, and respectful of their followers.”
And who wouldn’t want to lead a business meeting with the energy to inspire, the drive to motivate and the bearing to earn mutual respect? But advising business people to prepare for meetings by saying “Be Happy!” is a touch light on details. So, here are seven ways to generate positivity in yourself and others gleaned from leadership gurus Dan Rockwell, author of the Leadership Freak blog, and Nick Morgan, contributing columnist for Forbes:
1. Create Positive Environments
“Leading begins when the performance of others becomes top priority,” Rockwell says.
So, when preparing to lead meetings, he suggests keeping these truths about positive reinforcement in mind:
- “Organizations are people not organizational charts.”
- “Great results are the result of great relationships. You don’t have to choose between the two.”
- “Provide context. Help people see how they fit in. Purpose motivates.”
2. Share Positive Vision
“Vision gives meaning to work,” Rockwell advises. “Meaningful work inspires energy, commitment, and fulfillment.”
Meeting leaders should talk about short-term and long-run outlooks, according to Rockwell, but he counsels spending more time on the next three months than the distant future because the horizon can be “too distant to guide immediate decisions.”
3. Exemplify Positive Values
Use positive, active language in agendas and handouts; maintain an upbeat demeanor and brisk pace of discussion.
4. Readily Share Information
Restricting the flow of information in a meeting or providing only vague details can create uncertainty, which can lead to concern on the part of meeting participants. (Exceptions to this rule could be trade secrets or insider information when working with publicly traded companies.) But don’t gush to the other extreme either. Showering attendees with minutiae can perplex and engender anxiety, too.
5. Define “Positivity” for Your Group
Rockwell’s tips on this point include:
- Share your vision for a positive meeting environment.
- Identify and reward behaviors that contribute to that positive environment.
- Describe what you consider negative behaviors, too, as contrast.
6. Smile a Little
According to Morgan, successful speakers in any business situation share two attributes: They exude trustworthiness and credibility, which bolster the air of positivity in any setting.
“You demonstrate trust in terms of content by showing you understand the audience’s problems. You establish credibility by showing you know how to solve those problems,” says Morgan.
Plus, whether in person, online or even over the phone (yes, your tone reveals how you feel), body language matters, as he asserts: “You establish trust with open behavior and gestures, and credibility with authoritative behavior and gestures.” And now, research shared by the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin indicates showing a little smile helps, too.
A recent study found that “a neutral face with a slightly upturned mouth and eyebrows makes people look more trustworthy.” The effect, researchers explain, is unconscious. So, the look on your face, whether people can see you or not, truly can influence the level of positivity in a meeting.
7. Practice Optimistic Realism
Balancing the last few bullets, understand that every look from your face need not shine like the sun. Nor must every word from your lips fall like rose petals. To Morgan’s point about credibility, discussing the pros and cons of business issues is an important part of leading meetings. The trick is emphasizing the pros and acknowledging the cons by putting them in perspective. And if you’re willing to raise matters that others tend to shun, Rockwell believes you’ll have an edge as a leader without sacrificing positivity.
What do you think of these tips? Could you use them yourself in meetings? Do your leaders practice any of these methods? If so, how does it make you feel?