Four Ways to Deal with Negativity in a Positive Way
I’m a no nonsense farm boy originally from a dairy farm in Central Maine. We’re not impressed with positivity.
I recently reconnected with my friend Jon Gordon (Mr. Positive Leadership). I’ve been skeptical of positive people because I’m negative. But Jon is the real deal. I love his story and respect his message. We talked about his new book, The Power of Positive Leadership. Here are my reflections.
How to deal with negativity in a positive way:
#1. Embrace positivity publicly. No energy vampires allowed. Successful teams always struggle to overcome the sideways energy of negative team members.
- Confess to your team that you’re a dark cloud. (If you’ve been negative in the past.)
- Acknowledge that teams go further with positive energy.
- Publicly commit to positive leadership.
- Invite your team to affirm your progress and point out your negativity when they see it.
- Call your team to join you on a journey toward positive leadership.
#2. Positive leadership isn’t about pixie dust. There’s nothing positive about ignoring negative issues. When things aren’t right, teams wait for courageous leaders to invite elephants to dance.
“Positive leaders are demanding without being demeaning.” Jon Gordon
#3. Choose to address negative issues with a positive attitude. Adopt the no complaining rule. Point out problems with forward-facing curiosity and unwavering commitment to make things better.
“Being positive won’t guarantee you’ll succeed but being negative will guarantee you won’t.” Jon Gordon
#4. Deal with energy vampires (The Energy Bus). Jon said,
- Lead in such a way that people want to be on your bus.
- Work to transform negativity. Don’t just remove it right away.
- Remove negativity if you can’t transform it. Negativity is so powerful that if you can’t transform it, remove it.
“I don’t think you can be a leader if you’re not a positive leader.” Jon Gordon
How might leaders deal with negativity in a positive way?
Purchase: The Power of Positive Leadership
Visit: Jon Gordon
Follow on twitter: @JonGordon11
Great piece. I really cannot stand complainers.
Thanks Candace. You’re not negative about complainers are you? 🙂
Hahaha… not negative. Just not my type.
Dealing with negativity head on removes the opportunity for it’s growth. I own my negativity when it occurs. I make no excuses for it but recognize it’s there and begin my campaign to end or change it before it spreads! I was taught by my parents to “look in the mirror, who do you see”? Well with that standard of looking at self provided me the teaching of “I can’t deal with anyone else until I see my true self” I want to be infectious in positive ways and lead by example!
Thanks Wanda. You nailed it. We see and create what we are. Very challenging comment.
Nicely said, Wanda.
I agree Vicki.
Great message. People (including my wife) make fun of me for being positive, but I think it’s a reputation that has worked for me. The only caution I have received feedback on is that, sometimes by always being positive, people feel I don’t appreciate what they’re going through, and/or are ignoring glaring issues that need to be addressed.
Thanks Glen. Brilliant. Yes, you have to see and acknowledge the bitter realities while being positive. I know you didn’t bury your head in the sand.
I’ve also gotten this same feedback from others, saying that my positive approach sometimes makes them feel like I don’t care about them or their concerns. I only became aware of this from receiving 360 degree feedback and finding a particular area that reflected on me as uncaring, in direct conflict with the majority of the feedback. I was surprised by this (genuine caring is a huge part of my leadership style) and when I explored it further, this was a real AHA moment. My adjustment has been to more clearly acknowledge risks/concerns by inviting more input for this, noting the risks and also including options to mitigate. This is a work in progress, but I’ve found that risk acknowledging risk with mitigation options helps others better grasp that I do care about their concerns and what they bring to the table. I’ve learned that acknowledging risk isn’t synonymous with dwelling on negtives, but instead is a necessary part of finishing the story. It’s a way that I can better include input from others for a more complete picture and a win/win for all involved. And in the end, it changes the feeling from “she doesn’t care about me or my concerns” to “she cares about my part and considers my input important for better planning”. It’s one of many small things that helps me learn to be a better and more caring leader.
Great and timely! My immediate thought when reading this articles was, as leaders you have to support and coach your team during that negative time. If you have been a negative leader, own it and commit to move forward. Where the challenge as a leader and coach collide, is getting your team to a place of curiosity during a negative time. I have an amazing leader that has modeled these exact behaviors this week in a situation that has rocked our entire department. Although incredibly difficult, he continued to lead with integrity and a positive attitude. I am gratefully on the bus!
Thanks Jeannie. Your use of curiosity jumps off the page. Get your team to a place of curiosity during negative time…that changes everything.
Fantastic post. Confessing you’re a dark cloud puts it out there, and everyone else will play along as they keep a watch on you. I love the comment of getting the elephants to dance, and I’m going to adopt that today.
I had a little exercise with my 12 year old; we’d try and go a day without any complaining. We’d be driving and stop at a red light, and I’d say “Oh, a red light” and he’d ask if that was a complaint. I’d say no, it was a great opportunity to look around. It’s a tough exercise.
Thanks Ian. The game with your son is awesome! We could adopt that spirit and practice with our teams.
Energy cannot be created or destroyed, but it can be transferred, in this case redirected and transformed. As a positive person, I appreciate you for recognizing different viewpoints and providing tips to navigate diplomatically. Thank you for your insight, Dan!
Thanks Scott. Energy transfer…now that’s an exciting concept. Our energy rubs off on others. If we’re negative we create negative environments. If we’re positive we create positive environments.
A lot of the views here reflect a mindset I had with a former boss. He remained unremittingly positive by devolving the problems down to me and others!
Thanks Mitch. I take it that what he did was a good thing? If you mean that he trusted others, then I can see where that helps our positivity.
No Dan, is was anything but good. He remained positive by totally ignoring the impact of anything that wasn’t going well. When you are trying to explain that half the equipment is broken and can’t be repaired, staff are leaving in droves and can’t be replaced and you cannot renegotiate any of the deadlines you are going to miss, having him saying, “OK, that’s all great” has crossed the line from positivity into being detached from reality. It’s extraordinarily difficult to generate positive energy around a situation like this. It’s like the emperor’s new clothes.
hoping to read Dan’s input on this soon….
Great post. I am continually astounded at the power of negative energy. Working with teams, if just one member is negative, it is sufficient to bring down the entire team. If you reverse this so that all members are negative except one, the positive energy is not enough to shift the team. I find this fascinating. I also find that using curiosity in such situations can help shift th energy in the group to a place that is more positive.
I love Kathy’s mention of curiosity. By asking for more info when someone expresses negative input, this curiosity can bring opportunity to learn more. And the learning would likely happen for both for the person expressing the “negative” comments and for the person asking for more info. Inclusion often transforms negative energy into positive energy. Viola! Leadership with curiosity/inquiry can make things happen!
Thanks Mary. The way you teased out the use of curiosity is great. “Tell me more.” … “What are we learning?” … “What would you like to do about that?”
Dan, I saw a wonderfully uncomfortable example of this a little while back.
Boss “What are we learning?”
Employee “That the equipment you bought us, that we told you not to buy, is a P.O.S. and doesn’t work.”
Boss: “What would you like to do about that?”
Employee: “Throw it out of the window and get something we can use!”
Boss: “Ah well, ah well, ah well…” because, of course, we’re wedded to it, aren’t we?
Awkward! Sadly sunk cost control too many decisions. Thanks Mitch.
Thanks Kathy. Yes, we have to take the power of negativity seriously. One negative person has the power to pull the entire team down. That’s why leaders have to deal with it.
Loved it…needs to be re-affirmed out loud!
I work for a company in germany near my home town, where negativity is literally spread all over the place. Seriously, no one can imagine how much energy gets drained day after day… feels like tons… Almost every single time I talk to guys of the production team they start complaining and sometimes even yelling at me like crazy. Since I’m not their boss (and I hate beeing yelled at, of course) and not even responsible for these part of the company I conditioned myself to saying: “Okay, okay, we both know you’re right. From your point of view *this’n’that* is one of the major problems, right? In a perfect world, how would the machine/process/whatever be (designed), so that you wouldn’t have to complain about it?”
In about 90% of the cases when I have such conversations I’m not even given any answer…
I see cases like this a lot. The production people have probably spent years saying the equipment they have is not fit for purpose and that the process has too many conflicting criteria in it, whilst being told they have to do more and more with less and less. They’ve probably had repeated rounds of lean/six sigma/kaisen/etc which have each generated about a 1% “improvement” while adding demands to their day listening to another “guru” who is telling them that their issues with the equipment are not real and all they need is *another* process map…
I think you’re missing my point. If these guys would have had such repeated rounds of “repeated rounds of lean/six sigma/kaisen/etc”, they would know for sure that continouus improvement does not mean “to do more and more with less and less” but to identify and reduce or even eliminate waste. At my last job e.g. we were able the reduce the duration of turnovers by more than 85% without making the guys work harder or faster.
What I was trying to explain was, that approximately 90% of the production guys here are stuck in negativity (or even depression) that much that they’re literally unable to think of a way out of this situation.
I’m glad to hear that what’s coming out in the discussion is the difference between useful positivity and pink-sunshine positivity. I liked a quote of yours, Dan, so much that I used it in my email signature for a while: “Optimism trumps pessimism as long as people believe you understand reality.” It took me a long time to learn that cheap plastic positivity that comes out of some “leaders” isn’t the real thing. It’s shallow at best and manipulative/abusive at worst. I think that’s what people react to. I’m still learning.
I simply never would have guessed you place yourself as a “negative energy.” (Is it ok to tell the blog author that you think he is completely wrong? : / ) Approaching a situation from a perspective that may not immediately lean toward a positive position, does not make a person negative. It makes the person objective. (I think.)