The Negativity Virus


Negativity allowed to fester in your organization is worse than a flawed strategic plan.  It is worse than an under-performing team or being the last one in a market and struggling for penetration.  It is worse than just about any scenario you can think about because it can take your organization down.  It will undermine the best of teams.  Your strategy, your momentum, and your team will be brought to their knees by allowing negativity to spread within the company.  Route it out quickly and take caution if it is ever coming from your leadership.

Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “The speed of the leader determines the rate of the pack.”  Or you might have heard it this way, “The speed of the leader the speed of the team.”  Either way, it hits home here.  A leader must flush out negativity and embrace optimism as a value.  It should be valued alongside humility, integrity, excellence, or any number of virtuous traits that set you apart from the others.

I had a “look in the mirror” moment a year into a situation where I was asked to help turn a product around.  It was a product developed out of necessity and launched quickly.  It worked well in its current space; however, there were significant oversights we had to resolve before we could exploit other sectors of the market.  Progress was slow, and change was difficult.  I noticed my tendency to vent frustrations with key team members.  I knew it was wrong at the moment, but it became routine in our conversations.  It was not long before I was able to see my negativity in others.  I remember the first blast back from a team member, and all I could think was, “I created that!”  How could we be successful now that my team members had turned negative?  They lost their inspiration, and I was the cause.  I was embarrassed!

It was about that time I came across Simon Sinek’s job title; Chief Optimist.  I stopped at that moment and asked myself, “Could I ever hold that position?”  It has been my mantra ever since.

You don’t have to “fake it until you make it” or ignore reality, and I’m not suggesting you bury your head in the sand.  In fact, you should be well grounded in the truth of your world.  I’m merely saying, leaders, must adopt the posture of one who is always making lemonade.  After all, your team is looking to you for direction.  They are inspired by a leader brave enough to take the proverbial bull by the horns and optimistic enough to know she is capable of wrestling the bull to the ground.  After all, optimist leaders are seen as resilient problem solvers whose attitude becomes infectious.

So Leaders, Buck Up!  Lead your team with humility, transparency, and optimism.  Make sure your team knows you understand the situation and you have a positive plan to lead them to a victorious outcome.  Follow the words of Winston Churchill and “…see an opportunity in every difficulty.”