Several months ago at a training event a manager at my table was complaining about her team. She said they were “high-maintenance” and they drained so much energy from her that she was completely and utterly exhausted by the end of the day. She would often close her office door to keep anyone from disturbing her as she worked.
As she talked about her team I could hear the contempt in her voice. Out of curiosity, I asked what she could do differently to improve the chances of a more positive outcome? Her response … “nothing.“
I can honestly say … “I get it.” I know what its like to work in a competitive business climate where you find yourself trapped in the whirlwind. You get bogged down in the day-to-day work necessary to just maintain “business as usual.” The constant barrage of urgent priorities that demand your immediate attention leave you feeling overworked, overwhelmed, and stressed.
In the book, Play to Win by Larry & Hersch Wilson, they define a rather interesting perspective, which they call “playing not to lose.” When we play “not to lose,” we close our minds to anything new, to anything innovative, and especially to anything different. When we play “not to lose” the game is about survival. That is clearly where this manager was in her work. She was simply trying to survive.
To me, however, the thought of doing nothing was absurd. As long as she continued to do “nothing,” she would continue to get the same negative results. That is a high price to pay for doing “nothing.”
Dr. Kathryn K. Cramer, author of the powerful new book Lead Positive, writes “If you are seeing the downsides of a situation, then you might think ‘problem’ and feel ‘overwhelmed.’ But if you see the upsides in that same situation, then you will think ‘possibility’ and feel ‘exhilarated.’ Think of it as a self-reinforcing process that can either create a virtuous cycle that spawns solutions or fosters a downward spiral that only makes matters worse.”
I believe his downward spiral of negative thinking often leads us to do “nothing.”
Think about it. What is the cost of doing “nothing” about:
- Bad Leadership – Analysis by The Ken Blanchard Companies® shows that the average organization forfeits over $1 million per year in untapped potential because of less-than-optimal leadership practices.
- Poor Performers – According to Robbert Sutton, author of Good Boss, Bad Boss, poor performers (or “rotten apples) bring down the team’s performance by 30-40% compared to teams that don’t have them.
- Conflict – Research estimates that up to 65% of performance issues are the result of unresolved conflict.
- Disengaged Workers – According to the latest findings by Gallup, the 71% of the workforce that is “disengaged” costs American businesses over $370 billion a year!
- Great Performance – Exit interviews reflect one of the reasons employees leave (over 70%) is they felt they were not recognized and appreciated.
There are times when “wildly important goals” are necessary. However, I have found even the smallest, positive action has the ability to transform a situation and influence a beneficial outcome.
ASA Shift Exercise from the book Lead Positive:
1. Acknowledge. Think of a situation you are facing right now that fits into the category of challenging or stressful. Identify your negative emotions that are preventing you from taking action.
2. Scan. Think about one potential gain or upside you and your team might benefit from tackling this situation head on. What potential reward comes from dealing effectively with this challenge?
3. Act. What is one step you could take toward realizing the benefit you now see as possible?
May this single step of action be the tipping point for positive change!