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Building your business (and your life) around positive people

We often don’t take advantage of an extremely powerful and simple yet elusive principle: build your life and your business around positive people and don’t make room for the toxic ones.

I see this over and over again. This is a differentiator between successful entrepreneurs and unsuccessful ones, between high performing businesses and the mediocre. It even differentiates the clients I work with who are satisfied with their lives from those who aren’t.

We know that some people in our lives are uplifting, while others we walk away from feeling like we’re coming down with the flu. We remark on our daily interactions with people that are unusually negative or unexpectedly positive, but we don’t step back and look at the patterns those people create over time. The impact is cumulative and subtle.

You don’t need a Ph.D in social science to know that negativity fosters negativity between people. We’ve all seen “the complainer” turn the water-cooler conversation into an endless whine. Conversely, the positive souls in our lives have a disproportionately positive impact: in the words of Colin Powell, “perpetual optimism is a force multiplier.” We all know what the “breath of fresh air” person brings to a team, a business and our personal sphere of friends. Their outlook and energy is often described as infectious, with good reason.

Leaders of the most successful enterprises know this. They focus as much on building a positive company culture as they do on the technical and operational aspects of their businesses. When selecting new employees, the best companies have a “culture screen” and won’t hire people whose values and behavior run counter to their culture no matter how brilliant they may be as individual contributors. Leaders of these businesses recognize and reward people for the entirety of what they bring to the enterprise.

Most of my client CEOs have said at some point, “I should have gotten rid of that negative person in my business years ago. The whole company feels different with that person gone.” The cost of not dealing with toxic employees is enormous, whether they are bullies, manipulators, people who humiliate others or just consistent naysayers who see everything as wrong and none of it is their responsibility.

So why are most business owners I know too quick to hire and to slow to fire? There are myriad reasons that psychology and sociology help explain, but the short answer is: it’s not easy and it’s not fun to deal with problem people and to invest the time and energy necessary to attract the best possible.

This is when remembering the multiplier effect can help. Positive people and toxic people leverage their impact. The more time you spend on the former and the faster you cull out the latter, the better for your business and your own mental health.

Just as corporate culture is built on a critical mass of attitude, our personal lives are as well. So, at the end of your day today, reflect on the people you interacted with and the people in your business. Who dominates your life, the positive and engaged or the toxic?