Dear Dan: How Much Time Should I Spend Convincing Naysayers
We have lots of great people in our organization, but there are a few vocal naysayers. The negative people don’t seem to like anything.
We want to make change, but a few negative people constantly complain and point out problems.
Should we spend time convincing negative people to get on board or move forward with the people who are eager to make change?
Eager for change
The short answer to your question is go with positive people. Don’t spend much time trying to win with habitually negative people.
Three kinds of negative people.
Persistent dark clouds:
Be kind and polite to habitual-dark-cloud-people, but don’t spend much energy trying to turn them bright. It drains everyone. (I’m assuming you can’t remove these soul-suckers.)
Negative people take organizations in dark directions.
Organizations reflect their leaders. You unintentionally give leadership to Dark Clouds when you spend most of your energy trying to turn them bright.
Positive energy scares Dark Clouds. Enthusiasm makes them skeptical. Don’t try to win them over with positive energy. If anything, explore how your vision aligns with their values and strengths.
Doer dark clouds:
Some people love every new idea that comes down the pike. They’re the dreamers on your team. They don’t need convincing. They need direction. Dreamers are great starters.
Doers, on the other hand, love to finish things. They seem like foot-draggers to dreamers, but they need to see the path to victory before they commit.
A team of committed doers goes further than a team of dreamers.
Spend energy and time with Doer-Dark-Clouds. Ask them about the path forward. Explore their reluctance. Help them get comfortable committing.
You can’t stop a committed doer.
(If you’d like more information on Doers and Dreamers, there’s a search window in the navigation pane on the right. Just type in Doer and you’ll see several articles.)
Fearful dark clouds:
Fearful people seem adversarial.
- Be kind.
- Answer concerns.
- Give support. The people around us help us find courage.
- Expect progress.
- Don’t be seduced by the fearful.
In the end, there’s little difference between the habitually fearful and a persistent naysayer. Perhaps one difference is the seductive danger of a sincere fearful person. They give the appearance of wanting to help. But if you aren’t careful, fear has the same effect as active resistance.
You probably have concerns about Habitual Dark Cloud People sabotaging, backstabbing, and undermining your efforts. They already are.
Don’t lose sleep over Dark Clouds. Go with the true believers. Lose sleep figuring out how to fuel positive people and answer the concerns of Doers.
A small team of true believers can change the world.
Warning: Bad is louder than good. One negative voice outweighs many positive voices. If you aren’t careful, you end up pouring energy into Dark Clouds, but getting nowhere.
Tip: Sometimes I recommend putting all the Dark Clouds on the same team. Give them a project. Maybe they’ll surprise you.
Thank you for your question. I feel your passion. It’s my hope that you channel your energy into people who will make a positive difference.
You have my best,
What types of Dark Cloud People do you see in organizations?
How might leaders spend more time fueling positive people and waste less time with Persistent Dark Clouds?
*I relax my 300 word limit on weekends.
I tend to agree with Dan, listen and pay respect to the opinions of dark clouds – then make a decision and move on. If you put energy into converting a dark cloud to get everyone onboard, you end up wasting energy and give voice to negativity.
As leader your role is to lead and set the course. Gather opinion and consider different views, then chart the course and move forward.
Thanks Rob. I think engaging with people is important in this conversation. We can’t write someone off or completely ignore them. However, there is a huge difference between being open and being distracted.
I see the ” dark clouds” you can’t change and I see the clouds with glimmers of sun light shining through, work with the glimmers of hope the darkness needs to change or be remove.
On the side of negative all the time, could they have valid points, perhaps these are real and your in denial, or they are truly “Naysayers” sinking the ship.
Best on your organizational implementations.
Thanks Tim. Love “look for glimmers of sun…” Perhaps history helps. Have they always been negative or can they be convinced?
Always worth a try!
Nothing to lose but time!
sometimes negative comments outweighs positive one. Mind is our greatest battle field. Thank you for this article, ready motivates me.
I find that there is a danger of getting caught in stubbornness. As a senior leader, I have hired a manager that turned out to be a “dark cloud”. It can be difficult to see the line between being supportive of your managers and cowing to negative people. I appreciate your directness in describing them as “soul-suckers”. That is certainly an apt description.
Thanks Dave. You are so right. I wonder if pattern recognition is key to this. Support become enabling if we aren’t careful. But it’s hard to shift from support to “you’re on your own.” It feels cruel, even if it’s done for the greater good.
Perfect timing for me on this one, Dan! Actually came into the office today to start putting faculty members on teams for special projects so this worked out great. Thanks!
Thanks Doc. If you learn anything about forming teams, please stop back and share your insights.
I will do that, Dan. I put a whole group of dark clouds together on one team. We’ll see…
Hmmm… Churchill was a persistent, resistant, and action-oriented Dark Cloud … Balfour Declaration, Hitler, Iron Curtain, and all that …
And you are right, look how he got repaid by the smiley-faced fascists once the War was done.
The key is Churchill was action-oriented.
No, the key is he was right … and the Middle East is still a global irresolution because we (in the West) ignored his insights as to the nature of the problem (totalitarianism as a desirable ideology).
I don’t mean to be a dark cloud, but intentionally naive positivity (and its companion appeasement) leads to the same end … enabling denial. Silence, in this respect, would contribute only to strategic mistakes being made by those who aspire to lead.
Thanks for the clarification. I thought we were talking about Churchill being a Dark Cloud.
Thanks for the opportunity to make a point.
Negativity/”Dark Cloud” is like death and taxes, avoidance is good, but evasion resolves nothing, and could be a vital mistake, like Tim says.
Actual “Naysayers” are few and far between, and usually can’t answer affirmatively to the question, “Why are you here?” If a Dark Cloud answers in some form of, “I’m trying to help…” it’s usually best to listen (well) and learn (of a potential blind side). It’s not easy, though … but a good personal and collective discipline.
I agree with Dan.
Many times when one has a vision they will face obstacles from vision killers or Naysayers.
Keep going forward. Once you have majority on board, positive peer pressure can be a tool used to proactively turn the Naysayer to positive thinkers, especially if they, the Naysayer, wants to be part of the “in group” and don’t want to feel left out.