3 Ways Successful Teams Overcome Negativity
One of the most important decisions a team can make is to decide that they will not allow negativity to sabotage their team.
Over the last 14 years I've had the opportunity to work with many Fortune 500 companies, businesses, professional and college sports teams, hospitals, schools, and nonprofits on building positive teams. What I’ve found is that great teams and great leaders don’t run from negativity. They confront it, address it and cut it out like the cancer that it is. Negativity exists and you can’t ignore it. One of the biggest mistakes teams make is that they ignore the negativity within their team. They allow it to breed and grow, and it eventually sabotages the team. You must address the negativity. Confront it, transform it, or remove it.
Here are 3 of the best ways I’ve learned how:
No Energy Vampires Allowed
One of the most important decisions a team can make is to decide that they will not allow negativity to sabotage their team. In 2011 Mark Richt, the head football coach of the University of Georgia at the time, had his team read my book The Energy Bus and invited me to speak to them. I spoke before the season and, unfortunately, they lost their first two games. Georgia had been underperforming during the previous few seasons and the media was reporting that Richt was on the hot seat and would lose his job if this season didn’t go well.
I texted him after the second loss and said, “I am sorry I didn’t help more. I believe in this team. I believe you all are going to turn it around.” Richt texted me back and said, “Jon, the guys are still on the bus. In years past we’ve allowed energy vampires to ruin this team but not this year. This year we won’t allow it.”
In the team meeting room, Richt had an artist draw a large picture of an energy vampire on the wall facing the seats where the players sit. If a player or coach acted like an energy vampire, the team took his picture from the media guide and put it on the wall. No one wanted to be on the wall. It was a message from Richt to his team that they would stay positive through their adversity and challenges.
It worked, and the team went on to win the next 10 games in a row and made it to the SEC Championship.
Implement the No Complaining Rule
One of the best ways to create a positive team environment and transform a toxic team culture is to implement the no complaining rule.
The rule is simple: You are not allowed to complain unless you also offer one or two possible solutions. This eliminates a lot of mindless and toxic complaining, and empowers you and your team to create solutions instead of focusing on problems. After all, if you are complaining, you’re not helping. If you are complaining, you are focusing on where you are instead of where you want to be. Complaining causes you and your team to focus on everything except being your best. Complaining is like throwing up. Afterward you feel better but then the rest of your team gets sick. It’s toxic.
I’ve had many businesses, schools, and hospitals implement The No Complaining Rule and have witnessed how this simple rule can had a huge impact on engagement, culture, teamwork and performance.
When you and your team focus on solutions instead of complaints, your performance rises to a higher level.
Let’s be clear. Weeding the negative doesn’t mean you eliminate disagreements. Positive teams are going to disagree. Great teams fight. If you fight, it doesn’t mean you are a negative team. Conflict is necessary to have a strong team.
While I’ve found that teams that have more positive interactions than negative interactions perform at a higher level this doesn’t mean there should never be conflict. In fact, there needs to be some conflict. But why?
Well, all positivity and no conflict means that no one is asking the difficult questions. No one is discussing the important issues. No one is challenging the status quo. No one is challenging teammates to get better and no one is constructively criticizing others to improve. Having difficult conversations is key to being a great team.
Disagreeing with your team members doesn’t make you are an energy vampire. If your desire is to make the team better, sharing a complaint and offering a better way to do something doesn’t make you a complainer. Constructively criticizing a team member doesn’t make you a bad team member. You just need to make sure you do it in a positive way.
I’ve found that positive conflict makes the team stronger if there is trust, respect, and love. If there’s no trust, respect, and love, the conflict hurts the team. The problem is not the fighting. The problem is the lack of connection and relationship among the team members.
To be a great team and to engage in positive conflict, you need to trust each other and have a relationship.
Negativity is part of life. The best teams feed the positive and weed the negative. Knowing how to overcome negativity is what makes great teams great. I hope you’ll share the above strategies with your team and take action together. If you are willing to learn together, grow together, unite together, and act together, you will accomplish more than you ever thought possible.
Discover the Proven Principles and Practices that Make Great Teams Great with Jon Gordon's new book The Power of a Positive Team.
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