Team dynamics are often complicated, so it’s not unusual to find your people aren’t firing on all cylinders, or working well together. What lies beneath attitudes and behaviours however, is often our thought patterns. How we think affects how we feel, and how we feel affects how we behave. It’s a habitual cycle that can take us into a downward spiral.

As managers, we should first be aware of how these negative thought patterns influence the way we behave and interact. How do we come across to our teams? If we want them to thrive under our supervision we must be outwardly positive, influential and inspiring.

The challenge is in identifying our own negative thought patterns, and understanding how they might influence the way we are.

For example, a common response is to filter out any positive feedback we might receive and just focus on the negatives; or we may dismiss a positive comment as being polite, not genuine. Maybe you know someone who is an ‘all or nothing’ person, using superlatives to describe an event – “it was the worst experience ever”… Or do you find yourself jumping to conclusions, e.g. “everyone thinks I’m not a good manager”.

Do these examples resonate with you at all? What if your team members were also suffering from similar thought patterns? This might lead to defensiveness, cynicism, mental blocks and poor co-operation.

Negative thoughts do impact performance

Poor attitudes rob us of energy, limit our mental capacity for creative thinking and stifle our use of initiative. Negative mindsets get in the way of problem solving and we’re less willing to help others. Without a ‘can-do’ attitude we become problem givers rather than problem solvers, and the whole negative cycle perpetuates.

That’s why it’s imperative for us as managers to tune into the thoughts, attitudes and behaviours of our staff, so we can recognise when things aren’t right, and share our observations in a constructive way.

Making changes

Whilst negative thought patterns are often a force of habit, the good news is that these habits can be broken. This is where coaching skills become invaluable to you as a manager, so you are able to observe, comment, challenge and promote change without sounding judgmental.

The process takes 7 key steps:

  1. Listen to make your staff member feel valued and respected
  2. Observe unhelpful patterns in their thinking and responses
  3. Challenge their concept of reality to open up alternative points of view
  4. Promote awareness of their thinking patterns
  5. Build trust to enable personal growth without defensiveness
  6. Set objectives to promote continued awareness and progress
  7. Help them take action to break the cycle and promote more positive responses to negative triggers

Unhelpful thought patterns come in many different guises, are often subliminal yet can be incredibly detrimental. With the skills and knowledge to identify their presence, and deal with them effectively, you’ll be equipped to take action and in the process nurture a more positive, collaborative and dynamic team.

It’s worth reminding others and ourselves that it’s not what happens to you at work that matters as much as how you deal with it.