Infectious Diseases October 28, 2009Posted by Chuck Musciano in Leadership, Random Musings.
Tags: Attitude, Leadership, Relationships, Teams
Many years ago, I worked with a group of software developers who were situated in a typical cube farm. One day, a woman came to work clearly not feeling well. As the morning progressed, her conditioned worsened, punctuated with repeated trips to the restroom.
Her cube neighbor was concerned that she might be carrying some infectious disease. Sure enough, as time went by, he began to feel sick himself. Soon he was running to the restroom as well, and by the end of the day they had both gone home.
It turns out that she was suffering from a bad bout of morning sickness. Her coworker, it seemed, had contracted the rarest of all airborne maladies, psychosomatic male pregnancy.
While pregnancy is tough to catch at work, other diseases spread easily. While diseases can usually be treated and disposed of, other infections can be much tougher. These kinds of infections include attitude, ethics, and courtesy.
People tend to mirror those around them. If the workplace is a sad, depressing, miserable place, everyone in it will be sad, miserable, and depressed. Happy, upbeat, pleasant places create happy, upbeat, pleasant people. The prevalent mood spreads quickly, one way or the other.
As leaders, we have tremendous control over what is in the air. Our attitude sets the tone for the team. We need to choose our attitude carefully, because it will be mimicked, consciously or unconsciously, by those around us. While maintaining a continuously Pollyannish approach isn’t going to fool anyone, genuine confident enthusiasm is a good thing.
We also need to be sensitive to the “carriers” in the group, both good and bad. Every group has a few people whose genuine positive spirit is always a welcome breath of fresh air. Their approach lifts every project, enhances every meeting, and brightens your day. These people are treasures and you need to specifically praise them for their good effect on the team.
Conversely, every group has a few Eeyores. These people find the cloud around every silver lining, know exactly why every good idea will fail, and seem to find ways to bring even the happiest person down. These people can be fatal to your organization. Oddly, many of these people have excellent technical skills, so we overlook their attitude to take advantage of their ability. We make excuses for their behavior, hoping that their technical contributions outweigh their social impact. You can do that in the short term, but you cannot tolerate it for long. A person is a whole package, and attitude problems are no more or less serious than technical or ethical ones.
As leaders, we need to remove the infectious bad attitudes from our group and allow the good attitudes to more easily spread. Who are you infecting today?
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