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How To Use Positive Thinking To Transform Your Team

This article was based on episode 157 of The Modern Manager podcast. To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to The Modern Manager Podcast on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, iHeart Radio, Amazon, and Stitcher. Members can get one of 10 copies of the book Stop Drifting. Learn more and become a member at

David R. Ibarra had a difficult childhood given he grew up in the foster care system. At 18 years old, he was washing dishes at a local ice cream parlor when he met a manager who changed his life. This manager introduced David to the power of positive thinking based on the methods of Napoleon Hill. From the lessons he gained from that first mentor, David built an entrepreneurial career that spans the hospitality, automotive, and leadership consulting industries. His recent book, Stop Drifting: Become the Switch Master of Your Own Thought & Pivot to Positive, walks readers through his patented performance management system. David shares his key ways managers can help their own teams pivot to positive thinking that will transform them as individuals and as a collective team.


It’s really quite stunning when you consider how the brain works. As much as 80% of our thinking happens in our subconscious. Only 15% ever makes it to our conscious awareness! The remaining 5% of thoughts are related to our emotions, which acts as a hand reaching out to connect our thoughts from the subconscious to our conscious awareness. The beauty of this relationship between the conscious and subconscious is that emotions have a special power. If we can change our emotional responses, we can shift our pattern of thinking and behavior. Not only are we able to come up with better and more meaningful solutions, but the people around us will feel it. People love being around positive energy (obviously). When we are in a positive state, our teammates and clients want to work with us more.


Controlling your thoughts doesn't have to be arduous, but it does take awareness. Follow David's tips for learning to pivot to positive.

Keep Track

Spend one day paying attention to what types of thoughts are passing through your head. Label each thought as either “positive” or “negative” and keep a tally. At the end of the day, look at the results. Usually about 80% or our thoughts are fear-based like fear of losing income, getting sick, looking bad, or not getting what we want. About 20% are usually positive-based thoughts, like excitement about a future event or a new learning opportunity. Ideally those percentages are flipped, resulting in 80% positive thoughts and only 20% fear-based. Even the simple act of being mindful of how you are thinking is the first step in getting there.

Think About What Makes You Happy

Negative and positive states of mind can’t exist at the same time. To quickly shift gears, think of three things that make you happy. The moment you start thinking of something that brings you joy, you have opened the door to a positive mental shift. (Don’t be surprised if you discover yourself smiling, too!)

Ask Yourself ‘What Do I Want?’

Part of living in a positive headspace is knowing what you want. It’s such a simple question, but it’s something many people avoid confronting. Ask yourself what you want and what you are willing to do to achieve it. What skills do you need to learn? Who can help you get there? Be really clear about what information, expertise, and talents you don't have, and then go out and get them. Assemble your own personal team of people who can help you succeed. These may be people on your current team, other colleagues in the organization, friends or outside experts.


In order to get your team onboard to thinking positively, know what they each have to offer and what they want. Discuss how you can use their gifts so that each person becomes a leader in their own right and contributes meaningfully to the whole.

Gather your team and ask them where they see themselves in five years. Where do they want to be in life? Make it part of your mission to help them achieve this goal, regardless of whether it means they remain inside your organization.

As a step toward the team goals, ask each person to identify a short term goal and post them on a whiteboard in the office where it’s visible. Success for the team will then be determined by whether each team member is making progress towards their goals. As David explains in his book, coaching is about helping a team member execute a specific task. Mentoring, on the other hand, is helping them live the life they want to live. People want to come into work when it will help them get what they want in life. When we approach our teams this way, we end up getting what we want as well.

When we are in a positive state of mind, great things happen. We come up with better solutions and we attract people to follow us because of our positive energy. We shift our brains to work for us instead of against us. We can help shift the dynamics of our teams so that work becomes a positive place for everyone to grow. Teach your team the power of positive thinking so that they can move from a place of fear to a place of excitement and hope. When work becomes a place where dreams come true, we can’t wait to go into work and give it our all.


Members can get one of 10 copies of the book Stop Drifty. Learn more and become a member of the Modern Manager community at to help you implement the learnings and continue to enhance your rockstar manager skills.

This article was based on episode 157 of The Modern Manager podcast. To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to The Modern Manager Podcast on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, iHeart Radio, Amazon, and Stitcher. Never miss a worksheet, episode or article: subscribe to Mamie’s newsletter.




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