The Problem with Problems
The pressures and problems you face mistakenly give you permission to have priority over others. Pressures don’t change the principle that leaders serve others.
Pressures and problems don’t justify me-first leadership.
Pessimism is prevalent. Problems and pressures are magnetic. Worse yet, negative attitudes are a deadly virus.
Don’t think you can just slip into your office in a funk and it won’t affect those around you. It does.
When you’re in a funk:
People in a funk tend to withdraw and become passive. Off-set passivity by taking a quick walk around the office. Say good morning. Wish a few people a good day, then get back to work.
Go ahead. I’ll wait while you get out of yourself and spread some cheer.
People in a funk may use their problems as justification for irritability and anger. In this case, act otherwise. Shift from beat-down speech to lift-up language.
Think of optimism in behavioral
not attitudinal or dispositional terms.
Jay Eliot, former right hand man of Steve Jobs told me that people in the office always see the same Jay. “It doesn’t matter if I’ve been up half the night worrying about a problem.”
Be consistent and predictable.
All or nothing:
Don’t fall into the all or nothing abyss. Putting people before problems isn’t an all or nothing proposition. You don’t have to be a martyr. Make a small difference.
This post doesn’t address the healthy need to refuel and refocus; to care for you.
Problems become problems when they’re justification for me-first leadership.
What small behaviors or activities can leaders do that off-set the negative magnetism of problems?
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I’ve been encouraged by my boss to be more personal with employees, to let them get to know me. It’s a balancing act to do that and not to transmit your mood.
I know what you mean. Sometimes I tell others that I’m a recovering pessimist. It doesn’t come natural but I want to be it. I hope thats combines transparency with positive intent.
Thank you for being a regular on LF. I appreciate it.
OMG, this was EXACTLY what I needed this Monday morning as I came in “in a funk” as you called it. I followed your instructions to get up and stroll arond and it totally changed my attitude – thank you, Dan!
Booyah!! It’s great to read your positive comment. I know it will encourage others.
People before problems and problems before people, we need both approaches. First, we need people before problem. It means we need reliable, trustworthy and committed people who can own and be accountable for each of their actions and decisions. Second, we need problems before people. Now, the capable people will collectively find the solutions of the problems. One may argue against this concept but I think when we do not have capable, committed and trusted people, even a simple problem can become burden and repeated in nature.
I believe that actions can isolate negative magnetism of problems. we need affirmative actions and intentions to overcome negative attitude. Nothing is more powerful than performance. Let performance speak about your actions and behaviours. When There are more promises than actions, negative attitude flourish. So, make the action as a habit and you can change even a bigger problems into positive solutions.
KaChing! “Nothing is more powerful than performance”
Makes me think about how procrastination magnifies problems and creates stagnation and stress.
Love your perspective on these ideas.
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Great post Dan. Totally agree the staff needs to see stable consistent behavior in the leaders. This filters through and sets a precedent in the office and organization. When they see strength in the leadership it sets a culture in the staff.
Love that you bring the term “culture” to the discussion. Positive work environments are a culture issue and leaders that act consistently build culture. Of course if they are consistently selfish it’s a negative culture. 🙂
Best to you,
This post reminds me of the years when I used to participate in Dragon Boat Races. Worldwide teams competed. Every morning when my husband and I emerged from our tent, we’d see the Korean team doing team exercises. Some exercises would be physical, and other exercises looked really funny. When Americans would walk by, they’d smile and say, “Thank you! Thank you,” which we guessed was the extent of their English language skills.
The Korean team made the mood palpably happy and energized across cultures. Guess who won most of the time! I must add, if we, the Chicago (amateur team) had done these happy exercises, it wouldn’t have trumped our lack of skill. However, I can see how some really silly-seeming rituals can uproot any negative thinking. It can’t help but put a team in sync in a positive way. Come rain, mud, or loss of the race, the Koreans were always happy.
A bit of skill is good to add to the mix!
I agree that negative attitudes are a deadly virus. I do think that there are times when a leader faces stresses that are causing negativity, that it is appropriate to disclose at least a portion of the issue to staff. There are times when “fake it till you make it” just doesn’t cut it, and the briefest of descriptions (I am dealing with a seriously ill elderly parent; I am grappling with some tricky budget allocation challenges; our new puppy kept me up all night so I am not feeling 100%) MAY help staff see the humanity of the leader and maybe even lead them to pitch in.
Great point, Paula. And I’d carry it a step farther by saying that if those employees see us coping with the same things they do, then if we can manage to dredge up some positive energy then we’re modelling something pretty good for them. Hadn’t thought about that until I read your post.
I believe as well that you have to take a pro-active stance towards being “in a funk”, it’s not a good excuse to bring negativity in your team and make everyone less productive. A leader’s problems need to be engaged like you’d engaged any other problem, according to priorities and scheduling.
I agree that the “fake it till you make it” advice is less than ideal. You’re right, sometimes being a tad transparent is the answer.
Kevin Eikenberry’s focus for this month’s Remarkable Leadership Learning System is Remarkable Leaders are Effective Mentors. We had a wonderful discussion during his teleseminar this morning. “Mentoring behaviors” covers multiple activities for the leader. “You either lead by example or you don’t lead at all.” and, in your example, you give a good lesson. The leader can be human after all. People, Leaders if you will, who are magnets of negative behavior, are a fire hose on any environment. But the leader who typically puts aside his or her “funk” and decides, as Kevin does, that the people around him are Remarkable,
creates a Remarkable team.
Hi Dan, I believe Paula brought transparency into the conversation and I dare say it is not easy at times to find the “balance” of how much to share and how developing empathy as a virtue in the work environment can have a contagious impact and bring everyone closer as a community. I think showing ourselves and our humanity can be more constructive in the long run although a healthy mix of both the good and the bad needs to take place. This post reminds me of Dr. Banks, a psychiatrist that I have mentioned before, and his closing statement at his dinner speech: “As you ramble on through life searching for your soul, keep your eye upon the doughnut and not upon the hole.” 🙂 AD
Own it….if it is a ‘funk’ or any other limiting action/thought/feeling, own up to it and own it. Let others know too. Remember, thoughts impact actions which impact feelings which impact thoughts which impact….
Having encountered some physical ‘funk’, had to taper back in many areas to recharge and re-energize. When I did need to be there, I let those know that it was of limited duration, but I would be there. After the project was complete, I didn’t have to say anything, they told me go home and take care.
I think what Paula and Al added is really essential if you are leading a team in a transparent, open environment. I live with a pessimist, and some people will never give up the “crash and burn” mentality. I think there is a time for ‘fake it.’ It’s biologically true that by using our facial muscles to smile, we produce more endorphins. I also allow music and encourage personal ties, and personal growth, even if it means I lose a good team member.
When you are mentoring as well as leading your staff, I think for a healthy working environment is allowing people to be who they are, and encourage them on a personal as well as professional level. I’ve taught as well, so I am a big believer in “making your first hundred mistakes with me,” whether it is in the classroom, or administering in an IT environment. Foster development of self for every one you are working with, much like a participatory democracy. If, however, a veto is needed, I explain why.
Thank you for this post and all the comments. I’ve been disabled for some time now, and I’m considering getting some interns to work on various projects, so I have had this topic in mind. I don’t think people thrive on a vertical hierarchy.
Right on! I am glad you also don’t believe in the vertical hierarchy. I have been waging that war for some time now and slowly I am seeing light at the end of the tunnel. The sum of the parts can be so much greater than any one individual. I really like your take on ” thriving” in a vertical org chart. Yes things do get accomplished but the thriving you describe is so different and healthier when one does away with the customary “turf” restrictions. As Seth Godin proclamates “ship it” if you feel it and let others worry about it. thanks for your input Al
Thank you. You have no idea how encouraging your comment is. I noticed afterwards how poor my writing was, run-on sentences, repetition of certain words, and you are so kind to forgive me. Once again, thank you, thank you all.
Amen! Learning to look for the good in every circumstance (and there IS always something good) helps fuel the optimism and put a damper on the pessimistic attitude. In that walk around the room, try to think of what is best about each person you speak to. Even if you don’t mention it it will come through in the respect of your greeting.