Friday, July 22, 2016


The challenge of negativity isn’t new.  We fight it everyday.  When we are faced with it, what is our normal response?  Walk away?  Join in?  Yikes.

Kit, the pitcher in A League of Their Own, is negative throughout most of the movie.  Manufacturing sympathy for her is tough.  She is a whiner.  She brings down those around her.  She is frustrated with the sister who seems to have everything.  She is obnoxious to her teammates.  She is negative about her life and wants to bring others down around her.

Think about how critical the pitcher is to the team.  What does it do to the team to have someone like this at the mound?  How many of these people work with or for us?  And while you might want to fight this person, just as happens in one scene of the movie, work policy is likely to prohibit you from doing so. 

Confrontation is appropriate.  You do not need to allow this person to monopolize your time or to jeopardize the flow of the rest of the team due to such negativity.  It is not okay.

Make the business case first.  Log the hours given in support of this negative person, to try to move him/her beyond the perceived issues.  Log the hours given in support of correction of the frustrated team communication.  Log the hours given in conversation with other team members who struggle to work with that negative person.  Those hours have a cost, with very little ROI. 

Often the pattern for a manager is to have all of these conversations, but the functional team dynamic remains the same.  The cycle of engagement is not impacted and the status quo returns a day after addressing the issue.  Management does little usually to course-correct the department.  The symptom gets address – frustration, lack of communication, hurt feelings – but the cause – the negativity of a person – is left because we don’t know what to do.

Sit with Mr./Ms. Negative and share the logged hours.  Show him/her how much time has been spent because of him/her.  Let the time be a factual example that the behavior has caused.  You’re not saying the classic, “I spend so much time dealing with your stuff.”  That’s too general and will likely cause the negative employee to be remorseful for a moment but with no lasting repercussion.  When management is specific to the time, a line can be drawn in the sand to say enough.

A manager should further make the business case regarding lack of productivity.  In all of the hours spent by the manager in dealing with the situations caused by the negativity, rest assured it’s about the same for the team members involved.  They are not on task because of having to address the related issues of the negativity.  And every member of the team is valuable.  It should be very easy to show the negative employee that the team is not here to deal with these issues; it’s not part of their job description.  The cost of lost productivity is real and can be shared as an amount based upon time, hourly rate, cost of goods, and other operational & production costs.  

Giving the negative person truth and fact is the most respectful way to engage.  It will allow the conversation to move away from feeling, which is the default position, and rest purely on fact.  Management must engage on a level that moves the negative person out of his/her own perspective and into one that includes the company’s purpose.  Often, the negative individual sees his/her role as unappreciated at the company.  By sharing factual information, the negative person is offered a different (and more correct) view of how the company sees him/her.  When confronted with such information, management can be deliberate about the path of engagement moving forward.

Management will need to follow through on this.  If we’re serious that the waste of time is enough, then we must act upon that.  No more resources of time, team members and operational productivity will be wasted on such negativity.  Everything isn’t terrible, everything isn’t against you and everything isn’t about you.  Clearly act on this.

And while management may feel that the negative person is too tough to handle, a better view is to think about the team members that aren’t receiving such attention despite the great work being done.  The squeaky wheel getting the grease isn’t a long-term strategy for success.  Affirm the right behaviors more than the wrong; look at the time you’re spending on the wrong and make corrections.

Keep in mind, too, that this negative person can follow the path that Kit did.  She got traded.  Don’t wait too long to trade your Kit.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Can't Take My Eyes Off of You

Tenacious resolve.  Boy, it can be annoying.  Once or twice a week, I am on a train.  When I hop a train to New York City, I find a person or two with this tenacity around seating.  These people would sooner cut you than have you sit next to them.  They put their briefcase or purse on the seat next to them.  Fearful people walk by the open seat for fear of reprisal from the presumed bold person who would dare hold the seat with baggage.  I have watched a passenger stand by the seat, look down at the purse, look over at the owner seated next to it (who never looks up, to the right or to the left), and then walk on.  Where is the resolve? 

For those who’ve traveled with me, you could attest to the fact that I am of the type to board the train, pick up the baggage on the open seat, hand it over to the owner and sit happily for the remainder of the ride.  Only once did I have the baggage owner say something to me.  I did not look up, to the left or to the right.  I consoled myself with the thought of throwing momma from the train (probably the only positive context I can offer from that movie).  I exude resolve in that kind of circumstance.

This trait is not found in all people naturally.  It is, however, something that can be learned.  Tenacity is grown from a response to a core belief.  In the previous example, fairness is violated.  If fairness or justice or a sense of right and wrong matter to you, that can be built upon to develop tenacity around defending such a position or offering active engagement to its display.  It’s a manifestation of your belief system.

Think about your goals for this year.  It’s halfway through the year.  Do you still believe in them?  Take some time to measure where you’ve gotten with them and what’s needed to accomplish these goals.  But also, assess the tenacity with which you’ve approached the path towards those goals.  Do you fight for them?  Is your resolve deep around them?

Goals are important.  For as much as they’ve been over-complicated in creation, the point of them remains strong.  Goals serve as a beacon.  They are to drive the daily strain.  They allow for mile-markers of celebration on the path towards them.  They are the driving force of an organization.  If you don’t know where you want to go, then where are we going?

Being strong in our resolve towards these goals takes an unapologetic position.  Unapologetic is not the same as mean.  Be tenacious in protecting those goals, even if there is an alteration that has to happen to them.  Updating goals based upon new information is healthy.  If the new information is that you’re tired or it’s too hard, that is not healthy.  Goals should be designed to stretch you.  Easy to say, yes, but the point is to work hard to get this challenging objective. 

If you want to increase sales by 50%, calls will have to be made, networking will be expanded, pitching product and services will have to increase 100%, etc.  All of this takes great effort.  If you are not committed to the goal, then tenacity around it won’t develop.  Come back to goal creation.  Where do you want to get to and why?  Answer that clearly and create objectives to get there.

For those who are privileged to lead a team, work with each individual to develop strong resolve around the goals set.  Help them to know how to get to where they’d like to be.  Avoid the common issue of goals being set to paper, and then little else.  You have a great chance to enhance and develop skill sets for your team.  And then the celebration around accomplishment is even sweeter when it’s a collaborative effort of support and encouragement.

Fight more for the goals you’ve set.  Don’t cower.  Stand up and move towards accomplishment of those goals.  Remain laser-focused.  If someone has put a piece of luggage in your seat, move it.  You paid for your ticket.  You were up early to get the train.  You have a goal to get to the destination ahead.  See?  Think about goal-pursuit in simpler ways; it will help to foster tenacity.  And once you have the resolve behind the goals, watch out world!