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A Powerful, Proven Technique for Overcoming Negativity at Work

A Powerful, Proven Technique for Overcoming Negativity at Work

by | Sep 27, 2018 | By Karin Hurt, Winning Well |

Your team’s rightfully discouraged and a little stymied. Their negativity is rooted in facts. The truth is, you’re frustrated too. The struggle is real.

So as a leader, how can you stay positive without looking out of touch? How do you harness your team’s frustration to fuel productive solutions?

Try this powerful mind-shifting technique.

A Four-Step Technique For Turning Negativity into Solutions

When doing executive off-sites, we often use this technique immediately following an Own The U.G.L.Y. conversation. 

It always results in reducing negativity and a clearer focus on productive next steps.

1. Acknowledge Reality

It’s okay to share a bit of disappointment. After all, you’re human too. And your team wants to know you get it. Give your team a few minutes to share their feelings too.

“After all our hard work on the proposal, I thought we would get the contract too. I’m surprised we lost this one.”

“This new competitor is a bigger threat than we thought. We need to take them seriously.”

“This spike in attrition is a sign that something is wrong. We need to understand why our most talented employees are leaving.”

2. Reframe the Problem into “How Can We?” Questions

So given that reality, the next question is, how can we make the situation better?

Invite your team to brainstorm as many “How can we?” questions as possible for the problem at hand.  If you’re short on time, you can even assign this as homework and have team members come with a list of  “How can we?” questions to the next meeting. Gather all the questions on a whiteboard or easel sheets around the room.

Let’s say you’re dealing with the attrition issue. Your “How can we?” brainstorm might look something like this…

“How can we … truly understand why our best employees are leaving?”

“How can we … ensure our compensation package is truly competitive?”

“How can we … build a culture where employees want to stay?”

“How can we … give prospective employees a more realistic view of what it’s like to work here, before they accept the job?”

“How can we … reward loyalty?”

“How can we … build better career paths for our hourly workers?”

3. Vote for Which Questions Get to Root Cause

Next, invite your team members to place a dot next to the “How Can We? questions most likely to lead to effective solutions. Give every person 3 votes and see which questions your team has the most energy in addressing.

4. Work With Your Team to Answer the Top Three “How Can We?” Questions

If you have a large team, you can form three subgroups and give each group a “How can we?” question to answer. This works best if you let team members choose the question they have the most energy around.  If your team is smaller, it also works well to work on the questions as a group, although to maximize creativity you may want to tackle each question in a separate sitting.

Of course, the magic is not in the planning but in the finishing. Be sure you take time to prioritize which actions will make the biggest impact and build a realistic plan to work on the solutions most likely to give you forward momentum.

Innovative Leadership Training Leadership Development

See Also: 10 Ways to Overcome Negativity at Work

Fast Company: How to Manage Anxiety Through Tough Times at Work

We’d love to help. Reach out to us at [email protected] to learn more about how we can help your team take your performance to the next level. Or book a “How Can We” keynote or workshop for your next event.

Karin Hurt

Karin Hurt helps human-centered leaders find clarity in uncertainty, drive innovation, and achieve breakthrough results.  She’s the founder and CEO of Let’s Grow Leaders, an international leadership development and training firm known for practical tools and leadership development programs that stick. She’s the award-winning author of four books including Courageous Cultures: How to Build Teams of Micro-Innovators, Problem Solvers, and Customer Advocates and Winning Well: A Manager’s Guide to Getting Results-Without Losing Your Soul and a hosts the popular Asking For a Friend Vlog on LinkedIn. A former Verizon Wireless executive, Karin was named to Inc. Magazine’s list of great leadership speakers. Karin and her husband and business partner, David Dye, are committed to their philanthropic initiative, Winning Wells – building clean water wells for the people of Cambodia.


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