I recently came across a quote from Ralph Marston: “Being positive in a negative situation is not naïve. It’s leadership.” It reminded me of a leadership assignment where I didn’t think being positive in a negative situation was naïve, I thought it was dishonest.
I was a frontline supervisor in a human resources unit in a company that, at the time, did not value human resources as a function. Among the outcomes was the notion that anybody could “do HR.” As a result, the leaders of human resources were not necessarily qualified for the task . . . and some of their decisions reflected that.
I made a decision that I was not going to blindly repeat “the party lines.” I was not going to “put lipstick on a pig.” I was not going to be positive when the circumstances were so negative. In my mind, I was going to be my authentic self.
In short, I “wore my feelings on my sleeve”.
And I have never led a group with such bad morale before or since. It was a bad case of too much information.
Leadership is influence. My bad leadership was a bad influence.
Good leadership is effectively influencing people to good outcomes. Being negative, even in negative circumstances, does not produce good outcomes.
I have since learned that I can be authentic about my feelings and observations even in negative circumstances so long as I am being candid (truthful, honest, objective, and constructive). And I have retained a firm grip on my responsibility to exercise good leadership.
When negative circumstances do occur, I have found that it is a good idea to allow people an opportunity to vent; to validate feelings without wallowing in feelings; and only then move on to a more positive outlook.
An example of a transition from negative to positive sounds something like, “Yeah, I know that decision will make it harder to reach our year-end goals but I think we’re talented enough to make them anyway. How do you think we can make that happen?”
Acknowledge the reality, express confidence in the team, and involve the team in crafting the solutions, i.e., in overcoming the negative. It has helped turn TMI from too much information to TMA -- taking more accountability.
Have you been guilty of TMI in a leadership role? If you’re willing to share, please let me know what you learned from that experience. Send me a note via the contact form. I will send you an excerpt from my book, Transforming: The Power of Leading from Identity, as a thank you.