Do you focus your time and energy on “what’s wrong,” instead of on “what s right?”
With thirty years in marketing communications, I’ve been fortunate to interact with people from all kinds of professions, levels of experience, and demographic and socioeconomic backgrounds. As a brand strategist, I’m continually fascinated by people’s behavior, bias and belief systems. However, I’ve noticed a challenging and misguided trend. More and more people are working from a negative perspective. It doesn’t matter if we’re discussing marketing communications strategy, messaging or creative ideas for advertising, direct mail campaigns, email newsletter design, interactive Website design, social media guidelines or whatever.
“I don’t like that.” “I don’t care for that.” “We can’t do or say that.” These are some of the first comments being expressed. Rarely are the participants getting around to saying what they do like. Or what can or should be done. Why is that? Are we so overexposed and desensitized to marketing and advertising that little impresses us anymore? Have we become a society of critics and cynics? Has the nightly news and negative political campaigns transformed us into the land of negative thinkers and pessimists?
I think not. I think it’s simply much easier to poke holes in others’ thinking. It’s easier to find fault, point fingers or play devil’s advocate, than to motivate, inspire and lead. It’s harder for people to recognize and celebrate good ideas and constructively build on them. Especially, when you consider the time demands and pressure most of us are under.
Ironically, the same people, who complain about the number of meetings they attend, are often the same individuals who waste time talking about the things they don’t like, instead of cutting to the chase and pointing out the things they like and feel deserves to be pursued and supported. Don’t get me wrong. I know I’ve learned as much, if not more, from my miscues and missed steps. Two steps backward and three steps forward is the path for many success stories. Unfortunately, positive feedback and constructive criticism during this process appears to be a diminishing skill set in the workforce. Focusing on the winning ideas is a more productive and positive way to work. It’s more uplifting and just plain healthier for the spirit and mental well-being of both the right and left brain thinkers in the room. The same people who are passionate and committed to those ideas. The same ones deeply involved in the project and the overall success of the organization. Certainly as colleagues, who share a common sense of purpose, we would prefer to rally around winning ideas than dance around the conference table torching the other ones.
So the next time you’re in a group meeting – looking at ideas of some sort – fight the instinct to focus on the “weak or bad” ones so you can find the good ones by a process of elimination. Everyone in the room will thank you, praise you and climb mountains for you. But, if your corporate culture or “group think” or the alphas in the room won’t let you escape the gravitational pull of this black hole, I recommend sharing the book Zapp, The Lightning of Empowerment by William C. Byham, Ph.D. It’s a good chance to lead by example and offer some substantive and constructive criticism to your colleagues. Make it part of your New Year resolutions, and with any luck, you will help create a positive environment for your marketing efforts as well as your other assignments.