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Women in Leadership: Overcoming Negativity

Kala Datz is the senior program manager for Group Health. Kala has played several dynamic roles throughout her career that have provided insight into this month’s topic, “Overcoming Negativity.” Kala’s team spirit and mentally fit mindset give her the ability to be a positive force in the workplace. Taking life lessons from her dad, Kala works to be a leader by building a positive environment around her and her team.

Can you share a time when you had to overcome negative thoughts – how did you do it and what was the outcome?

I am undoubtedly my own worst critic and usually any time I have a negative thought, it’s a result of my tendency to overanalyze my performance. The best way I know how to overcome this is to remind myself that good leaders are always going to make mistakes – no one will ever have a stainless tenure. This allows me to give myself some grace and focus my time and energy on making corrections and moving on to the next important task.

When faced with a big decision, self-doubt often appears. What are ways to shut out negative thoughts and become more confident in decision-making?

My go-to tool when facing a big decision is testing out a “worst-case scenario” concept. I think about the absolute worst thing that could happen. This helps minimize the gravity of the situation and see from a bird’s eye view what is causing my anxiety. I’m able to realize that not even on my worst day could this happen – and it brings me back to a calm space.

How can we be intentionally positive?

Act the way you want to feel.
Be enthusiastic about your job, motivate your team members and be excited to be at work. Enthusiasm breeds motivation, and when you’re intentionally positive, it becomes contagious to the people around you. 

We all know words can be hurtful. As a leader, how do you ensure your words aren’t creating doubt or negativity in a colleague’s mind?

A quote I live by is – “How you speak to your children becomes their inner voice.” This quote transcends beyond children – how you speak to anyone has the potential to become their inner voice.

While I internally minimize my mistakes, I outwardly minimize the mistakes of my team. We should strive to build up our colleagues by minimizing mistakes and highlighting achievements. I treat my colleagues’ careers as if they were my own – this helps to inspire them to be better than the day before.

What’s the best way to receive constructive criticism and turn it into something positive?

Something to remember when receiving constructive criticism is that the person who is giving it is taking time out of their day to notice you. Constructive criticism is proof that your director has a vested interest in your performance.

The best way to absorb what you’re being told and turn it into something positive is to remove your ego. Constructive criticism is a great opportunity for personal and professional growth.

Is there a book that has helped you become intentionally positive in your career?

Ryan Holiday’s “The Obstacle is the Way.” This book talks about how obstacles expedite growth and evolution. It has helped me understand that all things, even my flaws, contribute to my advancement.

Has there been an influential person who has helped guide you through negative thoughts or self-doubt?

My dad – he’s always been a champ at coaching me through self-doubt and negativity. I can hear him now saying, “Kala, these are good problems to have.” Anytime I call him with work stress or a big decision, he reminds me how fortunate and privileged I am to be faced with these issues. This sticks in my head when negative thoughts get the best of me. It is so important to be grateful. Even on my worst days, I am still a very lucky woman to be sitting where I sit.

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