BLOG: In the shadow of the tiger

Zafar Anjum | Aug. 2, 2013
Tiger tales, Neurolinguistics and the power of positive thinking

Imagine you are standing in front of a tiger. Not in a zoo but in a real forest. And let's say this tiger is a man-eater.

How would you feel?

You will quake in your boots, right? Clichéd but that's saying a lot in just five words.

Beyond the surface truth, a lot more stuff happens within your body at that moment. For example, your body diverts 30 percent of your glucose into your blood stream to give you strength to face the danger. The brain releases fear-related hormones. Your heart wants to jump out of your throat. You break into a sweat. And so on.

Now, replace this tiger with your boss. Yes, your boss in the office.

Do you feel the same about your boss? Are you afraid of him? Are you afraid of losing your job?

If you are, then you are living in a condition of constant danger. You are living your life in the shadow of a tiger, and it is damaging your brain. Not just your brain but your entire well-being.

If you do your job well, you should not be afraid of your boss. A good boss needs a good worker like you. He needs you as much as you need him to succeed.

The same goes for your boss-your boss also has a boss in the chain of command. Like you, he too shouldn't be afraid of his boss. And for the same reason.

So, what's the point? The point is that a good leader would lead and not just play games with employees to keep his chair intact. A boss who is not like a fear-inducing tiger will ensure more positivity in the office. Positive employees are happy employees and happy employees are productive and loyal employees. I bet you can find plenty of evidence to back that claim.

Neurolinguistics and the power of positive suggestion

The above described scenario didn't come to me just like that. I recently bumped into a former colleague who now teaches at a bank management institute in India. She is a scholar of Neurolinguistics and she coaches bankers and top banking executives in leadership roles.

In her long career, she said she had seen many professionals damaging themselves because of negative thinking. She had seen this especially in India (she has been working in India after working in Switzerland for many years) where sycophancy and toadyism are considered important traits for survival. You can't create a healthy working environment if you are not a positive-thinking leader-that's her point.

Many banking leaders in India love to cling to their chairs so much so that they don't allow their juniors to be groomed for top positions. What if they become better than me or replace me? That's their fear.

This shortsightedness has created a leadership vacuum in the banking sector in India-a sector which will see more job creation than the manufacturing sector in the years ahead.

According to her, your negative thoughts induce the release of harmful hormones in your body, making you ill and disease-prone. The language you use affects your brain and its wiring-that is Neurolinguistics in short.

Her prescription? Always think positive. Tell yourself you can do it (let's say public speaking) and you will be able to do it. Imagine positive scenarios for yourself and believe in them. They will happen. It is as simple as that.

Don't use the word 'try'-as in 'I will try to achieve my goal'. Say, 'I will achieve my goal' instead. Don't let the word 'try' become an obstacle in your path to success.

Don't be afraid of your weaknesses-we all have our weaknesses. Don't focus on them. Focus on your strengths. When you see Javier Bardem on screen mouthing dialogues in English, you don't mind his weird accent. You enjoy his acting. Bardem is successful because he is exploiting his strength-his acting abilities. Vladimir Nabokov, the famous novelist, was not a great speaker of English but he wrote some of the most scintillating sentences in the English language. Dr. Abdul Kalam, former President of India, might not have a great accent but he always has great content to share. He focuses on his content and that has made him a darling of people, an inspiring figure.

The choice is yours. You want to think positive and stay healthy or you want to have negative thoughts and damage your brains. 

You have to try it to believe it. Promise me that you will think positive today and see how it goes.

Zafar Anjum is an author and online editor of MIS Asia, CIO Asia, Computerworld Singapore and Computerworld Malaysia