Stop negativity in its tracks

April, Staff Accountant for a construction company that provides full-service design and construction services based in Salem, OR told Session 7A of the Leadership Development Lab™:

“A few weeks before the full installation of our new Vista accounting software, I was a part of a Vista implementation meeting. There were several strong personalities in the meeting who were starting to run our meeting in a non-constructive way. In the past I’ve been a little intimidated by some of these coworkers. I listened for a while. I realized that the conversation centered around everyone’s complaints about things they didn’t like, the changes in routine that the use of the new software required. Soon, their contagious complaining and negativity began to take over the meeting. When I saw what was happening, I realized this was not constructive behavior. How were we supposed to find solutions to these issues if we spent all our time stating the same problems over and over?

I gathered my thoughts, swallowed my fear and spoke up. This helped cut off the negative rants that were not getting us anywhere. I was able to re-direct the conversation in a posi tive, problem solving, teamwork focused direction. I asked questions, ‘What are the most important issues we can influence? What are problems we can solve now? What should be our first steps? Who is willing to help? What are you willing to do? When will you start? How soon can we expect this part of the solution completed?’ I left the meeting feeling proud of myself for speaking up.

“The lesson I learned from this experience is the importance of becoming ‘more like a thermostat and less like a thermometer.’ Thermometers just reflect the atmosphere. I learned that when I speak up, I am the thermostat that can help move things forward in a constructive direction.

“The action I call you to take when you see the Negative Nelly’s taking over is to speak up with a solution focus even when you are scared.

“The benefit you will gain when you direct others toward a more positive attitude is you will find solutions to plaguing problems, spark more enthusiasm, and make real progress.”

When things aren’t working, when new projects stumble, it’s quite natural to complain, blame and even shame. This doesn’t help. The question you can ask is, “What are you willing to do to move things forward?”

See Chapter 6: Better, Shorter Meetings of
The Language of Leadership: Communicating for Results
by Larry W. Dennis, Sr.

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