Planting Your Roots: Tips for Building a Positive Network

April 16, 2015

By: Madison Romney

The symbol of a tree is often used when describing Positive Organizational Scholarship. Rooted in research, its strong foundation allows it to stand in the face of skepticism, negativity, and languishing. As it grows, the tree has the ability to venture into a flourishing state, but it needs proper nutrients and care. As the tree gets stronger, its branches, full of rich nourished leaves, spread up and outward, forming thriving connections and occupying new, uncharted space.

With this idea in mind, the Go-Getters, the team that I am a part of in the Center’s +LAB, decided we wanted to focus on the strong foundation of building positive, thriving relationships: The Roots. We decided to host a workshop that would teach those outside of the CPO community how to leverage impactful relationships and strong networks, especially at a new job or internship. By planting your roots in soil that has been nourished by the POS principles of purpose, authenticity, and reciprocity, your relationships can thrive into a blossoming network; a network that will bring positivity to uncultivated places.

At our workshop, Austin Anderson, Ross MBA alumni, Senior Consultant at EY, and remarkable POS trailblazer, spoke about his experience fostering positive connections in unexpected spaces. In his position as a Senior Consultant, he has worked with naturally negative executives. With the desire to learn and grown his own skills, Austin has wanted to establish a flourishing relationship with these expert individuals. Often shaken by their unenthusiastic disposition, Austin wanted to know how to infuse these languishing relationships with positivity. His suggestion for this is the use of a positive filter (or the “positive lens” as we often call it at CPO). Using this filter means “treating every interaction as a possibility to foster a positive relationship” Austin said. If we are vulnerable and trusting first we will have a greater chance at cultivating high-quality connections.

Interestingly enough, Austin has created a tool that relates to what world-renowned scholar Professor Jane Dutton has recently dedicated her thinking and research to: our mindset. How do expectations of an interaction actually influence that relationship? One of the exercises that she used at the Planting Your Roots Workshop experimented with this very idea.

To begin, participants were asked to pair up with a stranger. With their eyes closed, both POS seekers focused on thinking: “This person I am connecting with is special: they are smart, kind and interesting.” After a brief moment of silence, the room began bustling with energetic, smiling strangers fostering positive relationships. When asked how this experience felt, the guests exclaimed…

“My energy levels peaked!”

“Our smiling was contagious.”

“I asked more meaningful questions”

“I felt like the other person really cared about me.”

“I had a warm sensation.”

“I wanted to just reach out and hug her!”

Our mindset about individuals and possible future interactions with them has strong implications for the outcome of those relationships. Before we attempt to plant strong roots for fostering positive relationships, we need to nourish our own mindset about others. If you recognize a relationship that might be languishing, strive to go into the next interaction with a positive mindset that that person is special, smart, and kind. By valuing the worth of others and expecting positivity from them, we will have an even greater power for cultivating a flourishing network tree.