Hire Positive People to Build a Thriving Business

By Joe Taylor Jr. | Posted January 29, 2013

Leslye Headland's off-Broadway play, "Assistance," depicts the miserable lives of personal assistants who work for a demanding -- if not insane -- employer. Although the play satirizes the choices many professionals make, successful business professionals know that you don't have to tolerate a manic office environment. In fact, experts say, surrounding yourself with positive people can significantly improve your business.

According to author and sales expert Colleen Francis, customers judge you by your attitude. That extends to your entire team since, Francis says, the people around you mirror your own attitude. Consider taking five steps to change your attitude and fill your team with positive people who can help you enjoy office life and build a solid business.

5 Positive Changes to Grow Your Business

1. Take responsibility for your own attitude

Francis advises readers that we all have the opportunity to choose our own attitudes, even when things aren't going our way. As the characters in Headland's play discover, a grumpy, abusive boss quickly creates a culture where grief trickles downstream. By changing your physical behavior and adopting a more positive outlook, you can help your team improve their own attitudes.

2. Set measurable, achievable goals

Author Geoffrey James recounts the story of a "sales guy" who said he was only happy when he closed million-dollar deals. Unfortunately, since that only happened once a year, James' client had to struggle through 364 days of misery before hitting that high point. Giving your team a combination of "quick wins" and "stretch goals" lets you celebrate more often without selling your ambition short.

3. Hire people with positive energy

According to former General Electric CEO Jack Welch, a team member's attitude in the morning represents the benchmark they should strive to hit throughout the day. If you let a team member stay grumpy before their first coffee break or before lunchtime, you're sending the message that you expect a "come from behind" win every afternoon. In his book, "Winning," Welch writes that people with positive energy can start and end each day with enthusiasm.

4. Don't sacrifice attitude for "smarts"

Author and educator Roger Martin told Harvard Business Review readers that he once hired only "smart" candidates. Martin scouted top scholars from major business schools, determined that he could teach interpersonal skills to hires who seemed awkward or unhappy. After many of those high potential employees failed in their careers, Martin sought candidates he deemed less "brittle." Those successful workers heeded feedback, sought professional development opportunities, and they improved morale on their teams despite their slightly lower GPAs.

5. Share your expectations with your team

James recommends writing a list of "new rules" that encourage happiness at your office. Team leaders and company owners can post these rules, using them to guide staffing decisions. With greater transparency and a fixed set of expectations, team members can understand that happiness brings rewards in your company's culture.


When leadership training consultant Mark Murphy tracked 20,000 new hires at Fortune 500 companies, he found that nearly half of them failed within the first 18 months on the job. And 89 percent of those failures stemmed from "attitudinal reasons." Fortune 500 companies have learned not to tolerate team members who don't uplift their teams. Your small business shouldn't have to deal with bad behavior, either.

Joe Taylor Jr. has covered personal finance and business for more than two decades. His work has been featured on NPR, CNBC, Financial Times Television, Fox Business, and ABC News. He recently completed a personal finance book entitled The Rogue Guide to Credit Cards; (Rogue Guide Books, 2012).

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