Leaders do not coddle the negative

Recently, I did a mental count on how many young adult students I interact with, in a week, during my intense teaching period. Close to 600. In a year, it comes to 1,000.  Like many leaders, lecturers and people in the customer service business interact with different personalities.

In a book, GEN Y NOW, Millenials and the Evolution of Leadership by Buddy Hobart and Herb Sendek, the authors believe that most organisations are broken down into three types of folks: Teamers (20%), Fence-Sitters (60%), and Lottery Winners (20%).

“Teamers are loyal and dedicated employees who always give their best. They to be positive folks who trust their leaders and strive to do their best. Unfortunately, as they are low maintenance, managers and leaders tend to ignore them and not give them much time or energy.

Fence-sitters make up the majority and tend to be silent, neither overtly negative or positive. Managers also do not spend much time with them either.

The final group “Lottery Ticket winners” are the squeaky wheels. To them, nothing is ever right. They think (and say) they are smarter, more qualified and more talented than their bosses ( or anyone else).Seldom do they offer proactive ideas, but always first to point out the negatives. Usually, they are the most vocal and demanding of attention, and managers spend overwhelming  majority of their time and energy with this group.

Teamers tend to just shrug the lack of attention off, while the fence-sitters quickly learn that in order to be noticed, you need to be negative. Managers convince themselves, that, if they could just win over these negative folks, everyone else will follow.  Therefore, managers waste countless hours and enormous amounts of energy trying to motivate employees who are frequently a lost cause.”

Powerful. Do you have employees, volunteers or students like that?

The authors tell a “Lottery Ticket” Story. [Incidentally, the $13.9 million lottery ticket was claimed last night!]

A husband and wife woke up one Sunday morning, check the newspaper, and discovered that they have just won the lottery, a $45 million jackpot. The paper says there are two other winners, so their take will be $15 million.

The couple was overjoyed.  However, as they reflected further, both were afraid the windfall will change everything. But not for the better. They have read countless stories of how lives were ruined after just such a lottery windfall.  Already, happy and healthy, there’s nothing else they need.

So both decided, after hours of soul searching to give up the ticket. They decided who should bring the ticket to office, flipped a coin, and it was the husband who wins the toss. On Monday, the husband walks into work, and will have to hand the ticket to the first person he sees.

On Monday morning, our generous husband sees Joe, the office naysayer and cynic. True to the agreement, the husband approaches Joe, explains the situation, and hands him the one (of three) winning $45 million lottery ticket.

Joe takes the ticket, puts it in his pocket and says “Tough luck, you give me the ticket, but I have to split it with two other tickets” and walks away.

That’s a “Lottery Ticket Winner.

The authors’ advice is that, for some folks, even being given a winning lottery ticket is not enough. Yet it is just this type of person who demands our time and energy. The regrettable mistake is, we give it to them.  We are ignoring the “Teamers’ and teaching the “Fence-sitters” that inappropriate attitudes are rewarded with time and attention. Your goal for the Lottery Ticket winners is simple. They can:

  • start pretending to be positive
  • Start being positive
  • Shut up altogether or
  • Leave

Are there negative people you interact with?    If you interact with a lot of people, its natural.  Where do you focus your energy?   On the 5% negative ones or the rest?

Focus on the “Teamers”, the authors suggest. They deserve it and you will be teaching the “Fence-sitters” the correct leadership lesson.

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