Don’t Say, “It’s Not That Bad,” to Someone Who Thinks it’s Bad

Don’t say, “It’s not that bad,” to someone who thinks it’s bad.

when someone shows up with a monkey make sure it's still their when they leave


You’re right:

When team members say, “Things are bad,” say, “You know, you’re right.” And then ask,

  1. What’s bad about it?
  2. What makes you say that?
  3. What decisions/behaviors are making it bad?
  4. If it was good, what would it look like?
  5. Where to from here?

Bad to worse:

Don’t let teammates who think things are bad give you a job. People who say, “It’s bad,” often want you to fix things for them. Don’t! Especially if they are chronic complainers.

Every time you fix a chronic complainer’s issue, they find another. Things go from bad to worse.

Weak to strong:

Treat people who think things are bad like intelligent competent team members.

  1. Don’t contradict their assessments.
  2. Ask for suggestions.
  3. Expect them to make things better.
  4. Use “you” and “we.” Don’t ask, “What can “I” do?” At the most, share responsibilities. Don’t assume them.

Every issue you fix for someone validates their weakness and helplessness. It might make you feel important and powerful. But in the end, you become a zoo keeper. People keep bringing you their monkies.

When someone shows up with a monkey, be sure it’s still theirs when they leave.

Brief and long:

Talk more about what you want and less about what’s bad. Problems are magnetic. If you let them, they control the conversation. Don’t beat dead horses. Discuss issues briefly.

Successful leaders turn conversations toward the future, not the past. Spend most of your time:

  1. Describing the preferred future.
  2. Exploring options.
  3. Choosing a path forward.

3 steps to control:

  1. Make a list of everything necessary to move the ball forward.
  2. Eliminate everything on the list that’s outside your control.
  3. Take action on what’s left.

Exception to the rule:

Don’t honor people who want to tear down what you’re building.

How might leaders deal with the “bad” effectively?