If you want to be more consistent, raise the stakes.
Take for instance, working out. If you set a goal to start working out in the mornings before work, you’re going to be challenged with that sweet-sounding snooze button. You’re excited when you go to bed thinking “I’m working out tomorrow!” And then morning comes, and the idea of hitting snooze so you can sleep longer has a strong pull to it. You justify it to yourself, maybe even arguing that you’ll workout after work (which you don’t).
No one knows if you miss your goal this morning to workout. It’s “not a big deal.”
Until your one missed day turns into two… into five…into a month. That’s a bigger deal.
But what if we changed one thing about that morning workout goal and added the fact that you were going to meet a friend at the gym.
When that alarm goes off, you might consider hitting it but will remember that you have a friend who was willing to get out of bed before the sun came up to workout with you. You turn off the alarm, get out of bed, get ready and head to the gym to meet your friend.
The alarm sounded the same. The excuses your mind made were the same. The only difference between morning A and morning B was the fact that someone you like was counting on you to be there. You made your goal because you didn’t want to let that person down.
It’s easier to have consistency when there are immediate stakes to your decision.
That is the power of accountability.
You can even take this example to a new level by offering to pay your friend $100 every time you miss an agreed-upon morning workout. You most likely won’t miss more than one. Why?
Because you don’t want to pay your friend $100 that you’d rather spend on something else.
Stakes increased. Likelihood of showing up to workout increased.
Too many of us are trying to reach our goals or build new habits all by ourselves. In reality, we need someone(s) there to help us – an accountability partner. This person can be a mentor, a friend willing to meet us at the gym, or even a hired coach who checks in on our progress every week. We all need someone to essentially hold our feet to the fire in order to meet our agreed upon standard – and we all need consequences when we fail to live up to that standard.
If you want to be more consistent in your morning workouts, meet someone at the gym at 6am.
If you want to be more consistent reading books, have a small book club with 2-3 friends.
If you want to be more consistent building your career skills, have a mentor or friend who will practice sales pitches or presentations with you.
Consistency requires accountability. The more we have of it in the form of a relationship or consequences (like paying a “fine”), the more likely we are to build our consistency.
The better your accountability, the better your consistency.
“Either run the day or the day runs you.”Jim Rohn
Life comes at you fast as a leader. It can feel that our role many days is to be the company firefighter, constantly running around trying to put out fires that others started. We hit the ground running as soon as we walk into the office and by the time 5pm arrives, we’re exhausted from a nonstop today. We look at our current priority list and realize that despite not even sitting down for lunch, we accomplished absolutely nothing that was on our priority list.
I felt like a spinning top for the first part of my career. I was constantly busy, working on this project or that project, but I wasn’t achieving the bigger projects I needed to in order to advance my business. During a business mastermind some years later, I realized I wasn’t alone either.
One of the biggest traps leaders face is the busy trap. We’re constantly busy working on projects, helping our team, and going going going, but we rarely are calling a timeout to make sure that what we’re busy with is helping make the company or team better.
We must exercise better control of our day in order to effectively compete for the goals we want to reach. Besides, who wants to always be busy spinning your tires in place when you could be racing that nice car around the track?
Here are a few things I’ve used to take control of my day to better champion the work that needs to be accomplished:
1. Bookend My Days
My friend Marcus taught me about the importance of bookending your day. Marcus spends the first 30-60 minutes and the last 30-60 minutes of every workday making sales calls. It’s no wonder that he’s one of the highest producers in every company he’s been part of. When I started my first book, I made sure to start every morning writing 500+ words. The habit helped strengthen my “writing muscle,” and made sure that I got my most important work for the day finished before I dove into my to-do list.
These days, I start my mornings by writing a short blog post or Daily Competitor email before starting the day. As my day starts to end, I budget the last half-hour for prospect research that I can use the following day for outreach. My day starts with writing to build the relationship with my audience and ends with work to find more audience members.
How can you bookend your days? What is the 1-2 most important action steps you can do in your work to set you up for success? Client outreach? Sales calls? Identify it and use it to bookend the rest of your day.
2. Set Meetings with Myself
My calendar app in my iPhone is like gold for me. If an activity is not in my calendar, it’s likely not going to happen. I schedule meetings, podcast interviews, and sales calls…. and I also schedule time to workout, read, and create. Early in my career I’d create content “when I had time,” which as you know, is never the case. We never “have” extra time just lying around – we must make the time for the activities we need to complete.
Each Sunday, I schedule time in my upcoming week to create content, to make sales calls, and to learn. I treat the calendar appointment just like I would an interview with a guest for the podcast – I don’t forget it, change it or break it. Seeing the block on my calendar also helps me align the rest of my day around the key activities that drive business growth.
3. Create Necessary Space to “Watch Tape”
I would spend Saturday mornings during high school football season watching film from last night’s game with my offensive coordinator and teammates. We’d go through each play, scoring ourselves on our footwork, decision making, pass accuracy, and performance. We’d then discuss areas of improvement, walking through specific instances in the film to see how we can play better next week.
Watching tape is a crucial part of every athlete’s development. It’s also key for our professional development.
We need to create space in our calendar each month to review and think. Most of us are “too busy” to carve out time in our schedule for creative thinking & review, but how can we expect to improve how we operate without it? Block out one hour this month to:
- Review all of the “priority” items on your to-do list and ask yourself, “are these really priorities that advance us toward the goal?”
- Think through creative solutions to new growth opportunities, ways to invest in your team, or how to improve a situation at work. Use this thinking time to give yourself the space to not be inundated with emails, meetings, & work to make sure you & your team are working as efficiently as possible on the right activities
- Write down your own challenges from the past month – a) Where in your week do you seem to get “tripped up?” b) What current projects are taking longer than they should have (and why?), c) What areas of improvement can you identify and then what steps can you take this week to start the improvement process?
Unless you take time to review & learn from what was, it will be challenging to maximize what could be.
4. Track Your Priorities Every Day
My ADHD can keep my attention running from one thing to another. Combine that with our innate tendency to be “shiny object syndrome” oriented as an entrepreneur, and focusing on the small repeatable actions can get lost in the daily shuffle. I started using a few tools to help me constantly make progress on the important tasks:
- Everyday App – simple iPhone app that allows me to input the daily habits I want to develop or keep (ex: working out, writing 250 words, reading 15 minutes, one social media post, etc) and score myself by seeing it visually.
- Todoist – I use this iOS app for categorizing activities, setting deadlines, and being able to review my day’s priorities before my day begins. I also review this app every week to make sure the work I have this upcoming week aligns with my true priorities.
- GPS – I’m a big fan of The ONE Thing’s GPS tool for aligning my annual goals with monthly/weekly/daily tasks. I create the GPS, and then take it a step further in Google Docs by creating additional steps for each strategy that I break down into monthly targets. 1 goal –> 3 priorities to reach it –> 5 strategies per –> 5 action steps to achieve the strategy.
I spend Friday afternoon or Sunday evening planning the week ahead and using each of these tools to ensure what I’m working on isn’t just keeping me busy, but making my business better. Our time is too valuable to waste it with busy work.
5. Call Up Some Accountability
Teammates can help make your dream work. One of the last pieces to ensuring that you’re controlling your day is by calling in outside help. This can be a mastermind, coworker, or friend – but utilizing accountability helps make sure you see through what you need to accomplish.
It’s like going to the gym at 6am. It’s hard to drag your butt out of bed some mornings, especially if you’re headed to workout by yourself. But what if you’re meeting someone there at 6am? You’ll be there on time because they are expecting you and you don’t want to let them down – someone willing to get out of bed before the sun for you. Treat your work the same way.
Here are a few ways I’ve embraced accountability relationships over the years:
- Set up a Slack channel with 3-4 friends working on projects. Every Monday we check-in with the 3 tasks to achieve that week. Every Friday we share what we achieved or didn’t. No excuses, only solutions for how to avoid any missteps the following week.
- Set up a 1-2x per month coffee. My friend James & I did this for all of 2019. Each session we’d discuss what we were working on, what challenges we currently had, and then made commitments to achieve 3-5 things before we met for coffee the following time. The conversations and accountability kept my work consistent toward the right targets.
- Hire a business coach. This is honestly one of the biggest things I do as a coach for my clients – hold them accountable to do the work they know they need to do. We discuss strategy, habit building, and attacking our work effectively, but at the end of the day, most of the work is in accountability. If you’ve never worked with a coach or mastermind group, I’d highly recommend it. Just like hiring a personal trainer versus having an open gym membership – when you’ve got more invested in something, you’re more likely to do the necessary work to fully utilize it.
We’re all busy.
Every single one of us have a busy schedule – but we must train ourselves to control that schedule intentionally in order for us to be our most effective in our endeavors. We don’t have spare time to waste. Using the above steps helped me control what was a “busy but ineffective” schedule early in my career to now create large amounts of content, speak all over the country to organizations, and still oversee our merchandise company.
So can you.
You don’t need to be John Cusack holding a boombox outside of someone’s window to get their attention. That’s going big. That’s what most people are aiming for today.
More followers. Louder noise. Bigger…. everything. They believe that the best way to win sales or lead effectively is to go BIGGER in everything.
The truth is, our biggest leadership influences are found in the smallest things that we do.
Our inboxes are overwhelmed every single day with sales pitches, coworkers’ requests, and spam. The last thing that stands out to us is another email from someone wanting our attention or to thank us.
But a handwritten card delivered in the mail? That gets attention because:
- It stands out where an email would get lost in the clutter
- It signifies someone sat down and took the time to craft a note to you (a rarity in today’s age of go-go-go rush)
- It better conveys the gratitude in a thank you. An email is ok. A text message is so-so. A phone call is good. A handwritten card? Great.
And it’s just a little thing to sit down and write a thank you card, but so few do it that by doing so you’ll stand out.
There is great power in doing the little things to stand out. Take for instance:
In sales, little things that can change your success rate include…
- Taking the time to actually research the prospect before copy/paste & sending another template outreach.
- Adding value before asking for a sale
- Following up offline to get a prospect’s attention (like the thank-you card)
In leadership, little things that can increase your influence include…
- Investing time each week to better get to know a team member’s life outside of the office. Want your team to perform better at work? Make time to connect with their heart first so you can get to their head.
- Taking fifteen minutes to hop on a quick Zoom with a mentee & help them in a way you wish someone had for you twenty years ago.
- Creating a piece of content (blog, podcast, video) each week to share your thoughts on recent industry news or how your team has handled a specific situation. (You might think the Internet is overcrowded with this type of content, but it’s not. There are a ton of consumers, yet still not many creators)
In life, little things that can improve your overall experience here on earth, like…
- Once a month picking up the person behind you in line’s coffee just because, and encourage them to pay it forward.
- Working out 20 minutes a day. It doesn’t have to be much, but moving your body every single day will improve everything – your consistency, your health, & your mindset.
- Picking up the phone every week and actually calling a friend to check in on them. Texting is overrated. Sometimes, people just need to hear your voice.
All are small, little personal touches that most people believe they’re too busy to take time to make today. Yet, it’s the small personal touch that best stands out among the clutter.
Business and leadership are both at their core about trust & relationships – and the best way to build both are one-on-one. To increase how BIG your influence grows this year, focus on how much smaller you can act each day to bridge the gap to those you’re wanting to serve or lead.
Watch others – but don’t desire to be them.
One of the challenges I had with social media is the balance between learning from those who have succeeded in specific areas while trying not to envy them.
Social media is an incredible tool to use for learning. You can study how someone posts, how they use it to communicate about their business or build their brand. Clues are everywhere online.
Social media is also great for consuming great content, be it educational or entertainment. With the click of a follow/unfollow button, you can intentionally curate your feed to be things that interest you or people you want to learn from.
But there’s also a downside to using social media mindlessly.
The killer of joy, comparison, runs rampant on social media.
Everywhere you scroll is the perfect picture of someone doing something great. It’s not like anyone is posting big losses. We even intellectually know that social media isn’t the entire story, but it doesn’t make it easier to see certain “wins” such as likes, comments, or followers on a profile and not compare it to your own work.
You can clean out your “Following” list on Twitter or Instagram, go back and add only accounts that you want to learn from….and still struggle mentally seeing certain successes that you haven’t reached yet.
It feels like being on social media to learn only ends up creating more mental anxiety than mental growth in many of us.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
The subtle shift starts with how we talk to ourselves and how we view our social media feed.
A leader’s goal with social media should be to use it to connect with like-minded people, engage those following you, and learn from those ahead of you who share how to get better. Here are the four steps I started taking to improve my relationship with social media & maintain better focus on my own race instead of comparing it to someone else’s version.
1. Control WHAT you consume.
I review my following list roughly once every other month.
On Instagram, I take two steps:
- 1. I review my feed to see if the content appearing is the kind I want to be consuming & taking note of how certain posts make me respond mentally, being sure to unfollow anything that causes an unhealthy response.
- 2. I review accounts I enjoy for who they follow and browse to see who I might want to add into my feed.
This keeps my feed fresh as well as my mind in a healthy space with the content.
On Twitter, I decided to:
- Clean out a majority of my “following” list. This became pretty easy during election season.
- Create private lists for accounts based on topic (Mental Performance, Leadership, Sales, My Teams, Friends, etc.. are just a few). This allows me to not be controlled by my feed but jump right into a topic.
This has changed my endlessly scrolling on Twitter to now using the platform for intentionally hopping on to learn/converse and then logging off.
You can’t consume crap & play at your best physically, so why would you mentally?
You don’t have to follow every account. Find the ones that add value to your mindset, relationships, & life, and unfollow the rest. It’s your feed, make sure you’re intentional with how you use it.
2. Control HOW long you consume.
It’s easy to get caught into the trap of scrolling for hours. If we’re going to start using social media to learn, we need to set boundaries for how long we’re using it. Classes have a bell to signal that it’s time to move on, use the same thing with your phone alarm.
I will try to post multiple times a day, but I try to limit getting into my feed (and scrolling) to two specific periods:
- To comment & engage users. I try to make at least 15 comments per day from the @CompeteEveryDay account to followers or users of a specific hashtag
- Scroll to see what specific people I follow have produced & shared that I can like or comment on to support.
In both instances, I’ve started setting a short alarm so that when it rings, I log off. We always work better under a deadline, so why not set one so we are more intentional with the feed versus what can become a negative habit of continually scrolling for fresh content.
3. Control WHY you consume.
A key to improving your relationship with social media and transforming it from a consumption-only feed toward a learning experience is understanding why you get online. It doesn’t matter to me why you want to consume certain content, but it should matter to you.
- Is it to learn how to improve your daily mindset?
- Do you scroll to learn how to build your business?
- Or are you using it to “keep up with the Joneses?”
Getting a better handle on why you spend time online will you help each time you log-on and how you interact with it. Knowing that you get online to connect with other people will push your focus toward commenting & engaging with new accounts instead of scrolling your own feed for hours. Understanding that you’re online to learn will help you set a boundary that you log-on, read something you can add commentary to or learn from, and then log-off.
Understand why you’re using the platform to improve how you’re using it.
4. Create FOR someone else to consume.
By now, we’ve controlled who’s content we consume, how long we’re online, and why we’re there. Now it’s our turn to create something valuable for someone else.
- Don’t worry about your likes
- Don’t worry if “no one sees it”
- Only focus on how your next post can encourage, entertain, or support someone else.
We want to be leaders who add positive value to the mass content that is social media – not someone adding to the crap that’s already on there. Find something you learned from someone else, share it in your own words or with added commentary (link back if you quote them direct) and keep paying the value forward.
It’s hard to be worried about how you compare to this person or that person when you’re locked into how you can help someone who already follows you.
As a growing leader, social media can provide an incredible opportunity to learn and develop your skills. There are amazing accounts to follow that consistently provide strong value. Remember that the platforms are meant for connection, not comparison.
Get on. Learn something. Share something. Then get offline and go make moves.
What comes first for your team?
Do they hear you bark instructions about what standard they should be performing up to or do they see you modeling the standard in your actions?
Leadership isn’t just lip service, contrary to how most managers act today. It’s a lifestyle first and foremost.
Stock the coolers.
I grew up working in the small gas station my Dad owned in east Texas. I’d spend summer days sweeping dirty parking lots, cleaning gas pumps, and stocking the cooler with soft drinks & water before I could play with my neighborhood friends.
I hated every minute of it.
On occasion, my dad would jump in and help me stock the cooler or change out a soda line that had run out of syrup. I initially didn’t understand why he was doing that. Didn’t he pay employees to do all of this? Wasn’t he paying me to do it as well? I finally asked him one day why he chose to jump in and do these small tasks instead of just telling his employees to do them.
“I have great employees who can do the work, but many times during life, a leader has to get in there and do the work himself.”
He went on to teach me about the importance of modeling the standard for your team. My Dad shared that it didn’t matter what position you are in a company – CEO or newest entry hire – leadership is first and foremost about how you live your life. Once you model the standard in your actions, only then can you expect your team to meet that standard.
Great leaders are never too arrogant to roll up their sleeves and sweep the parking lot if that’s what the company needs to succeed.
“Besides,” he told me, “if I’m going to ask my team to do a task, I need to show them that I’m willing to do it too. Nothing is beneath me or them.”
Set the standard.
ESPN’s documentary The Last Dance profiled how tough of a leader Michael Jordan was on his fellow Bulls teammates. He was ruthless in how hard he pushed his teammates, often beyond what was required. However, despite this tough persona, his teammates went on to share about how a) they needed that type of leadership in order to become a six-time world champion, and b) Jordan never asked them to do something he wasn’t willing to do himself.
If he yelled at you to practice harder, he was pushing himself to the brink of failure during practice. If he said weights at 4am, he’d be finishing his first set at 3:59am.
Jordan understood that in order to push his teammates to new heights, he must be willing to pay the same price first so they could see what it looked like. Only then did he earn the right to push them to the same level.
Model the behavior first – then ask others to meet that same behavior. Too often, managers feel that their role entitles them to do the opposite, or honestly, just tell their teams what to do and not worry about modeling it themselves.
But that’s bad leadership – and a culture-killer at that. Who wants to follow the person who constantly tells people to do one thing, only to watch them behave in a completely opposite manner?
You can tell your team what to do and what standard to live up to – but only after you have first modeled that standard for them.
Your walk talks louder than your talk. Does your team see your walk first or hear your talk?
One of the biggest “misses” that companies make in trying to build a winning culture is forgetting vulnerability.
Vulnerability is crucial to a strong company culture & a leader’s ability to influence because it’s that one thing that allows true connection between you and the people you’re trying to influence.
Here are three ways to inject a level of vulnerability into your team to foster a championship culture.
What matters most to you – winning or getting all of the credit?
Michael Jordan was quickly emerging as one of the top players in the NBA as he started his second season in the league. He came out on fire during the first few games of the 1985 season before fracturing a bone in his foot during an October game against the Golden State Warriors.
The Chicago Bulls began to crater without their star second-year guard, going a disastrous 17-33 in the first half of the season. But, as we saw in ESPN’s The Last Dance documentary, hope wasn’t completely lost. #23 was coming back.
Jordan rehabbed relentlessly and returned in mid-March to the court. Worried about the long-term health of their franchise star, Bulls’ ownership imposed a “7-minutes-per-half” restriction on him. It didn’t matter how great he was playing, or how close the game was, once he hit his minute limit, he was benched for the remainder of the half/game.
The boiling point came on April 9, 1985, when battling for the final playoff spot, Jordan hit his (then) minutes restriction – with 30 seconds left in a one-point game. He fought his coach, who was being told he’d be fired if Jordan played one more second.
It had to be one of the most frustrating moments in Jordan’s life after he’d scored 15 fourth-quarter points to bring his team back. The opportunity to compete was being taken out of his hands. He was angry and helpless to aid his teammates in that moment. He was seething at the Bulls front office as he took a seat on the bench that night.
Almost every one of us can relate to the feeling of having the power to influence a result taken out of our hands.
In many situations, we sulk, whine, or complain about the situation. “It isn’t fair” that they get the chance and I don’t. Our focus has gone from winning and team success, to “what about me?” We focus on our feelings, suddenly apathetic to how the team does because it’s no longer about us.
This isn’t about sports either.
Watch the last 30 seconds of the Bulls-Pacers game in The Last Dance. You’ll see Bulls guard John Paxton hitting a game-winner and the first person off the bench to celebrate the win is Michael Jordan.
The same All-Star player who was just benched by management is on the court hugging and celebrating the win with his teammates when so many others would stay on that bench or go to the locker room because they didn’t get take the winning shot.
That moment right there showed Jordan’s uncanny leadership and focus on simply winning.
It’s also a clear reminder that as leaders, greatness requires us to focus on winning results, not getting all of the attention. Is it any surprise that the winningest team captains in sports history are about the team and not just their own awards?
- Tom Brady (New England Patriots)
- Derek Jeter (New York Yankees)
- Anyone on the New Zealand All-Blacks
Leaders – winners in sports and life – care about winning. Period.
It’s not about the individual attention or praise, it’s about making sure no matter what, we as a team win.
When a friend hits a big goal, we should celebrate with them – and be motivated to raise our own game.
When someone on our team gets to make the presentation for a successful client project, we should celebrate with the team that the client is happy – not complain and add negativity to our culture that we weren’t chosen to present.
If you crave the attention, you’ll rarely get the wins. If you crave the wins, you’ll easily get the attention.
Leaders on winning teams care about winning – not the attention.
Compete to do the same this week.
I originally sat down and wrote this to you about two hours before I took the stage for 350 insurance industry leaders at a conference in Nebraska. Odd time to write an article, right?
Then Covid-19 hit the nation and changed everything, so I decided to shelf this post. I had planned to keep it in the drafts until I received a few messages from some of you about not feeling qualified enough to start *that* project. It was the perfect reminder of the one thing high-achievers all face:
Feeling like you’re about to be “found out” and kicked out.
Here’s a moment of transparency for me that I wanted you to know what I mentally deal with prior to a keynote presentation.
I had given that specific keynote presentation at least thirty times in the last two years. I actually got this specific gig because someone saw me give this talk in October and referred me to the client. It’s my second most popular talk, which means I should be 100% confident in it, right?
You see, every time I’m preparing to speak I face imposter syndrome. Yes, even a few years into this business I hear the whispers that say “you don’t belong.” I spent this morning rehearsing my gig for the 20th time in the past few weeks. I know my content. I know I’ve practiced. I know I’m ready – but that still doesn’t stop the voices.
- What if my content isn’t actually that good and I’m a fraud?
- What if this is the audience that doesn’t laugh at any of your jokes?
- What if…what if…what if…
That (evil little) voice will try to convince you that you don’t belong. Here’s the thing – every single high achiever hears that voice.
They just refuse to let that voice stop them.
Imposter syndrome isn’t common among people who settle. The ones who are content to keep things “as is” don’t hear it, nor do those who give a crap effort.
It’s only people who are stepping outside of their comfort zone to try and do something bigger or new that hear it. Which means that every time you hear the voice of Imposter Syndrome it should signal to you that YOU’RE ON THE RIGHT PATH.
That voice’s appearance means you’re growing.
Right now, many of you have more time on your hands than you’re used to. You keep toying with that idea of starting a blog, building a side hustle, or even just using this time to step up and encourage others with videos or short posts. But then you stop.
You hear the whispers that “other people are more qualified to do it, so why would anyone want to hear from you” and you listen to them. So you do nothing.
You let the voices win when you do nothing, but in reality, they’re wrong.
The sound of that voice should remind you that you’re preparing to step outside of your comfort zone – and to embrace this moment as the chance to get better.
Average people would hear that voice and let it talk them out of doing anything of value. Competitors hear that voice, acknowledge they’re on the right path, and then get to work.
When I hear that voice, I immediately:
- Start my positive self-talk (audibly).
- Remind myself of the intentional rehearsal work I’ve put in for hours for this. I know I’m ready.
- Control my breathing.
- Talk back to that voice. I remind it that I’ve done this talk before and when I step on the stage, it’s my opportunity to help others and improve my work.
If I can remind myself that I’m prepared for the moment and that the talk isn’t actually about how good I look (but how much can I help the audience), that voice tends to shut itself up.
It’ll work the same for you, too.
More than anything, right now this world needs people to step up and use their voice. We need more encouragement, more helping hands, and more art/business/music/things created. We need imposter syndromes silenced so leaders – leaders just like you – can step up and lead.
Don’t let the voice of Imposter Syndrome stop you. Let it signal that you’re on the right path and then put your head down and get to work.
I’m cheering for you.
Is that someone using your favorite coffee mug again?
Is that someone in a sour mood, all of the time, and seems to just drain the life out of the office?
Is that someone sitting right next to you every single day?
I’ve been there with a coworker too. You get an almost knot in the pit-in-your-stomach, please God don’t interact with me today, feeling every morning as they walk in. You dread having to deal with *that* coworker because no matter how excited you are going into a day, they seem to drain the ever-living-soul from you.
How is an aspiring leader supposed to deal with *that* negative coworker?
Most of us can relate to being forced to deal with a less-than-stellar teammate. From little league sports to our first corporate job, the chances are high that we’ve had to work closely with someone we don’t necessarily like. Anytime you take a group of people with diverse personalities, agendas, and backgrounds, throw them together on one unit, and you’ll have an adjustment period.
Did anyone else get stuck doing all of the work for your class project like I did?
School projects. Youth/High School sports. Corporate teams. I don’t think I’ve ever been on a team where everyone loved being around everyone else.
And guess what? That’s ok. You don’t have to like everyone – but it’s your responsibility as a leader to help them.
It’s never ideal to have friction with a coworker, yet it happens every day in offices and locker rooms. People are thrown into a situation and despite needing to work together, will still butt heads. And we both know this one fact: some people simply love being negative.
All of the time.
It’s as if they embrace being miserable. I don’t understand it, and I’m sure if you’re reading this, you don’t either. However, it’s on us to still work with them – even if they’re a pain in the butt.
Leaders are the ones who can successfully navigate these tricky people and still excel beyond the immediate situation because they know how to do this:
We 100% control…
- Our attitude
- Our effort
- Our actions
- Our focus
…every day. We each face situations and individuals outside of our control, but only we dictate these four things in our lives. Unfortunately, most people seem to forget that they 100% control these things.
- Bad attitude? Blame it on your negative coworker.
- Poor effort? Blame it on the fact you wish you had a different job.
- Complacent? Blame it on the idea that you “just don’t have the same motivation” as so-in-so
It’s easy to blame others for our bad attitude, effort, or lack of action. It’s easy to show up with anything less than our best when we don’t love our job or the people we work with. That’s easy.
But easy isn’t what makes us proud – or a great leader stand out. Blaming others for our controllables is simply creating an excuse to shift the responsibility off of us and onto others. But it’s not their fault, it’s ours.
That coworker may be toxic to work with, but they don’t control how hard you work. You do. It’s still 100% up to you if you:
- Choose to adopt their negative behavior or learn to ignore it.
- Engage in their game of misery, or encourage them (relentlessly some days) to change their perspective.
What your coworker chooses to do shouldn’t impact how you show up and what you do. However, if it continues to escalate, here are four things you can do to (directly) address the situation:
- Control your controllables. Despite their negativity, remove yourself from situations involving them (happy hours, water cooler talk, etc) and commit to yourself that you’ll maintain a positive attitude with your teammates. Focus on what you control.
- Have a direct conversation with the employee. You shouldn’t be rude or aggressive, but there are healthy reasons for having a candid conversation with your coworker about how their negative or toxic behavior is impacting you, your work, and the environment that you both share. Ask them if something is going in their personal life or why they might feel negative. In some instances, the individual is acting out because they don’t know how to process a situation outside of work.
- Discuss the situation with HR or your direct boss. If direct conversations fail, schedule a meeting with human resources or your manager to discuss your coworker’s behavior and how it’s negatively influencing the culture. Share steps you’ve taken to remedy the situation and some potential solutions you believe could help everyone involved. Make sure you’ve taken personal steps to talk with the coworker before immediately meeting with your superiors or HR so it’s apparent you’re interested in helping your team.
- (If all else fails) Look for a new opportunity elsewhere. There are some instances that a compromise or positive solution can’t be found due to the employee’s position, overarching situation, etc. In these cases, your best option may be to look for employment in a new organization. One thing to keep in mind when interviewing – make sure you interview your interviewer heavily about their culture and addressing toxic employees so you have a strong grasp of how they operate and what they do/don’t tolerate.
It doesn’t matter if we’re a high school athlete or a VP of sales for a nationwide organization, we will work with people who we don’t always “click” with. Most people use it as an excuse to shirk responsibility off of themselves.
Leaders should hold themselves to a higher standard. They control their controllables – their focus, effort, attitude, & actions – and don’t give that control to a toxic coworker.
Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes is already a household name, regardless if he wins Sunday’s Super Bowl LIV. The East Texas native made waves in football during his first year as a starter in 2018, earning league MVP honors. Mahomes is a special athletic talent, but one thing that sets him apart from others playing his same position is his leadership style.
See what I mean in this clip below:
Down 24 points to the Houston Texans in his team’s first playoff game this season, Patrick can be seen on the sidelines encouraging his teammates and pumping them. He was facing overwhelming odds – losing 24-0 – but remained at least on the outside, positive and focused on helping his teammates stay locked in. He’s shouting positive words to “do something special” and simply focus on the next play.
“One play at a time. Do something special.”
You didn’t catch him whining. You didn’t hear him cursing out defensive players for giving up 24 points. You only saw him trying to keep everyone focused and believing they could get back in this game.
And get back in this game they did, outscoring the Houston Texans 51-7 in the time remaining.
It’s common to see athletes put their heads down on the bench, see the frustration on their faces, or hear the expletives shouted at a couch or teammate when their team is losing by multiple scores. That’s common in sports.
It’s also common in life. We pout, sulk, or whine when things don’t go our way. We don’t get the promotion we believe we deserved. We get injured and miss a physical goal we’ve set. Life deals us a bad break that’s completely outside of our control but derails what we expected to do. It’s common in those frustrating moments to be negative and blame the situation or others for our predicament. That’s common.
That’s also why great leadership is not common.
A leader’s ability shines brightest when the situation seems darkest. A great leader stays positive despite a turbulent storm and does their best to keep their teams in positive spirits too. What Patrick Mahomes did on that Sunday – and seemingly every Sunday you seem him on an NFL sideline – is special. It has nothing to do with his talent level (which is astronomical) but everything to do with his choices.
He intentionally chooses to take a positive attitude and look for the opportunities instead of whine and stare at the obstacles. The mark of a positive leader is unquestionably visible when things aren’t going as planned. They stay positive. They encourage their team. And they focus on the most important thing – what they can do next.
It doesn’t matter if your arena is a football sideline, a business office, or your own home. Your ability to be a positive leader doesn’t have to do with your title or talent, but your choice to intentionally want to be one.
And if you need a good example, look at the Kansas City sidelines this weekend for #15.