Growing up, I heard the term PMA, or Positive Mental Attitude, repeatedly. Before you dismiss the term as a fad for personal development junkies, you should know that scholars also have a term for this; PA or Positive Affect. Negative Affect is stinkin’ thinkin' or like my father, Charlie “Tremendous” Jones, used to call it, "Thumb sucking." No surprise that the acronym for Negative Affect is NA, which made me laugh out loud. So, if someone presents a bad attitude you can declare,"Your NA is N/A!".
With Valentine’s Day upon us, coupled with the daily reminders I receive from those who loved my father, I decided it was time to unpack the essence of tremendousness so that we can engage in changing the world today as he did. What made my father so great? He wasn't the biggest name speaker or the brightest. He didn’t build an international company or publish academic papers.
Almost ten years after his earthly departure, I find myself just beginning to unpack the legacy he left behind. As his daughter, I experienced first-hand the presence and power of Mr. Tremendous. In my role running his legacy company, I see and live amongst the remnants of it every single day. But the question remains, was what made him so unusual and one off that it was limited to a single individual, never be recreated? Was the tremendous mold broken after my father was born?
The answer is ‘no’; we can create the same intimacy, passion, and commitment my father did. Granted, he was naturally gifted with an extroverted and empathetic personality and allowed the power of the Holy Spirit to burn so bright that it brought others to him as well as him to others, but the research says we can control our state of emotions and how we present to others.
My father had a difficult upbringing; one so bad he only disclosed the details to me two days before he left this earth. For a man who had left his past so far behind, it was clear he still bore the scars of abandonment and abuse. Yet that is not where he chose to operate from. Rather, when you met him he immediately initiated a role whereby you felt you were part of the "in group"; you were a somebody that matters, and he was thrilled to have finally met you.
So how did my father build a legacy that is still in full force today where he changed someone’s life in the first twenty seconds? He did it by simply engaging every encounter. CEO or wait staff, when you entered his gaze, arms reach, or even the melodious sound of his voice, he made you feel like you were the only person in the room. His caring focus initiated an emotional convergence, a term researchers say is critical to leadership. He also had a physical connection with the men where he’d pull them in for a hug (“Don’t try and fight it” he’d say, "I don't like this any more than you do!”) and for the ladies, he’d ask for their hand and kiss it. How desperate we are to have these intensely authentic encounters that alter our way of being for the rest of our lives.
We need to teach more empathy; we need to explain more affect, we need to understand how mutual entrainment of positive emotions is required for developing high-quality relationships. Because without it, we’re all just going through the motions, getting out only what we put in and waiting for the day we never have to work or interact with our co-workers again.
This Valentine's Day, I hope you see how the emotional expressions of a leader are essential to their effectiveness. First impressions inform the future relationship between you and the other person; so, make sure they’re tremendous. This will set the stage as an anchoring event for all future exchanges. This linkage of positive emotions is required for developing high-quality relationships in work and in play.
I witness this first hand every single day when I get an email, a phone call, Facebook post, a reply to my blog, or a letter from someone who tells me how my father met them with such intense empathy and love they never forgot. It altered their state of being 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, even 70 years later. It literally blows my mind and simultaneously brings me to tears every single time. May we all share our affect in such a way that it has a tremendous effect. Thank you all for being a part of the viral contagion that is changing the world one book and one hug at a time!