Culture Killer: Your Weakest Link

By Lauren Lee Anderson

I wanted to elaborate on a post I read by Anese Cavanaugh recently, an amazing personal and professional leadership coach — it’s just too poignant not to share: Are You The Weakest Link? 3 Ways to “Hold Your Space” in Leadership. It starts with:

“The lowest energy “wins”.”

The lowest energy wins? Well, that’s something to be optimistic about…Unfortunately, as I’ve experienced and as Anese explains, doom and gloom attitudes often prevail in an environment by bringing everyone around this energy, down. You come in whistling and you’re met with someone scowling — who’s more likely to change their disposition?

So, what does this mean for your company’s culture? If you want a strong team and positive culture, you have to identify your weakest links and avoid letting negative energy seep through the cracks and slowly but surely taint your entire culture.

One Bad Apple Spoils the Bunch

Of course, not every day can be sunshine and rainbows and building and growing a business is nothing short of a non-stop rollercoaster ride. So while not every day will be the best day, to build a great business, it takes strong-willed individuals working together aligned around the same mission and values. The approach should always be with enthusiasm and maybe even slightly, delusional optimism.

As Steve Jobs famously said, stay hungry, stay foolish.

What can sour this journey are the bad eggs. The complainers, the cynics, the complacent: they will slow momentum and deteriorate morale. Culture suffers, work suffers and it can be a pretty miserable scene. And yes, all this can happen from just one weak link –it all starts with infectious bad energy. You know the ‘ick’ when you feel it.

Combat Negative Energy

A fascinating book called “Hardwiring Happiness” by Rick Hanson demonstrates why negativity can be natural but also how we can literally re-hardwire our brains for the positive.

Back in our cavemen days, we needed to prepare for the worst in order to survive and a negative, defensive outlook served us well. Fortunately, these days, survival for most of us is not at the forefront of our every decision. However, that doesn’t just magically change the way our brain operates.

There are about half a quadrillion synapses supporting our thoughts, whether they are positive or negative. The interesting thing to note is that active connections get more blood and oxygen, a biological reward, while inactive synapses die. Our minds are literally building our brains and we can choose what connections get rewarded.

When we dwell in the negative, we generate billions of connections that feed the negative thoughts we are thinking. Letting positive experience flow for 10-20 seconds is all it takes to hardwire your brain for positive (and productive) emotion. We reroute the synapses and literally restructure our brains with our minds, allowing the positive to take over with all it’s benefits of creativity, calm and cool. Kind of crazy when you think about it.

Repair or Replace?

Of course, there is always the question of whether a persistent weak link should be nurtured and repaired or simply removed and replaced? Something to consider is that this low energy is often a reflection of how happy an employee is in their position. It’s possible they need a change of focus or new responsibilities but it’s also just as possible that moving on is the best option for both parties.

Our hope with 15Five is to be able to check in on the morale of each person. These reports can unveil small changes that can boost energy and mood. For example, someone who might report they are feeling isolated could benefit from a simple desk reconfiguration, a team activity or a retreat.

The first step in maintaining positive and productive energy in your workplace is tuning into it. Use your next team meeting as an opportunity to really gauge how people are showing up. What are their tones, postures and body language saying? You’ll find that this can speak volumes over the words that actually come out of our mouths. Use your 15Five reports to tune into the collective morale and don’t be afraid to raise the bar by making sure you show up with the energy and presence you also want to see in your team.

Don’t let the negative spoil the broth. It’s entirely possible to actively instill positive contagion in your workforce.

When you encounter a weak link, what is your approach to saving your culture? Let us know your experience in the comment section below, or send us a tweet!

photo credit: alison e dunn via photopin cc

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