3rd June 2021

Positive thinking for L&D and HR professionals

How often do you hear (or say) something like this?

‘I’m really snowed under at the moment!’

‘We really can’t take on anything new right now.’

‘It’s just not possible, we’re not ready for it yet’.

Instead of saying what we can do, we focus on the barriers.

Are we sometimes our own worst enemies? Do we talk ourselves - and our colleagues - down? Do we make things impossible? 

The good news is that you have a choice about how you think. You decide. And that puts you in control.

Taking a positive can-do attitude doesn’t mean glibly saying things are great if they’re not. It’s not about being unrealistic. Or about failing to acknowledge negative emotions. We need to accept those too. I heard a HR professional the other day talking about ‘toxic positivity’. Faked positivity isn’t helpful to anyone but being positive isn’t poisonous. I’d argue it’s good for the soul as well as for making things happen. Even when things look bleak, a genuine desire to look for a positive way forward brings comfort in sad times, and a sense of purpose in more everyday situations.

Practical positive thinking is about taking a step back and asking yourself what you can do, and what is possible. And it isn’t half energising! 

There are lots of situations where if you think positively and ask questions to explore a problem or a need, you can come up with ingenious solutions. And promoting a ‘can do’ mentality is good for you, and good for those around you too. 

Let’s take some examples from Learning & Development scenarios and give them some practical positive thinking treatment:

Scenario 1:

‘Our people don’t engage with learning.’

Scenario 2:

‘We’d like to, but we don’t have the budget.’

Scenario 3:

‘I’m not sure our people are ready for this yet.’

Practical positive thinking takes conscious effort. But if you want to make things happen, you can.

It is about getting into the habit of reframing our thoughts. To explore ideas and possibilities. To look for opportunities and positive angles. When faced with a difficult scenario, we can help ourselves by consciously looking for the hopeful, more encouraging way forward.

Here’s a real story from this month:

There was a senior manager from an organisation’s Resources Directorate. And there was a Learning & Development Manager from a completely different organisation. Both were interested in digital learning resources for providing performance support to their people. Both liked what they had found very much indeed. They could see the benefits, and both had the required budget available. But both were concerned about one thing: that their people weren’t ‘quite ready’ for them. 

The senior manager from the Resources Directorate talked himself down. And lost the opportunity. The Learning & Development Manager took a step back and asked how to ‘bridge the gap’. She is open to ideas and willing to explore how to ensure her people are ‘ready’ to use new ways of learning. She seized the opportunity. And will make it work. That’s practical positive thinking in action.

Catherine de Salvo

3 June 2021


Want to encourage a culture of positive thinking? Listen now.

Scott Bradbury has just released Practical Positive Thinking, as part of the Sound Advice podcast series.

Listen now to Catherine de Salvo in conversation with ex-BBC presenter Sue Marchant by clicking on this link.

Sound Advice, the podcast series from Scott Bradbury

Sound Advice podcasts provide valuable insights into current topics, as well as ‘practical takeaway’ activities for listener learners. All under ten minutes. Find out more here.

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