Edit ModuleShow Tags

The glass half-empty syndrome


Optimism is one quality of an emotionally intelligent leader. Have you ever been part of a team led by someone who believed that their team was destined for great things? It's inspiring and fun and it gives you a fighting chance to scale tall mountains. (Too much optimism, of course, is delusional. When the horse is dead, you can't will it to victory. It's time to get off and find another horse.)

There is a dangerous disease that can suck the optimism out of a team faster than the Grinch can steal the presents from Whoville; cynicism. Although not the direct opposite of optimism (which is pessimism), cynicism can bog down an organization and put a good size ding in the culture. Can optimism and cynicism simultaneously exist in large quantities? I don't think so.

Having a small bit of this affliction, I appreciate the well-timed cynical comment that can lighten up a situation (for example, "Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you like the play?"). The problem occurs when cynicism becomes embedded in an organization through its conversations, meetings and even processes. When you start from a position of, "This ain't gonna work," or "All of my people are dopes," you're in trouble. Bart Simpson is cynical and funny, but no one will follow him into battle.

Cynicism robs people of energy. Why show enthusiasm for a new product, customer or idea when the room will just shoot it down? Cynicism also destroys innovation. If my ideas have to get through Calvin Curmudgeon to see the light of day, I'll quit trying (or just quit). Cynics don't see failure as a necessary step to success; they see it as predictive ... of everything!

Cynics also like to hang out together; they find energy at the bottom of the pool. Interestingly, however, they rarely offer solutions and are not good members of a team trying to solve a problem, as they just want to bring up more problems. I'll bet there aren't too many cynics in Apple's product development organization. Cynics can't stand to be around positive, optimistic people. It wears them out. They cringe when they hear words such as "Outstanding!" and "Great job!" because they believe good things happen to those who are lucky, not good.

Optimism works, and it's infectious! Receiving no birthday card from my kids doesn't mean they hate me; they're disorganized! Bob isn't lucky because he got that great account; he's persistent! The situation isn't hopeless; it's a cool challenge that we can overcome! That's the team I want to be on.

{pagebreak:Page 1}

Edit Module
Todd Ordal

Todd Ordal is President of Applied Strategy LLC. Todd helps CEOs achieve better financial results, become more effective leaders and sleep easier at night. He speaks, writes, consults and advises on issues of strategy and leadership. Todd is a former CEO and has led teams as large as 7,000. Follow Todd on Twitter here. You can also find Todd at http://www.appliedstrategy.info,  303-527-0417 or todd@appliedstrategy.info

Get more of our current issue | Subscribe to the magazine | Get our Free e-newsletter

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Archive »Related Articles

Made in Colorado 2016 winner: Women's Bean Project

Women's Bean Project was named winner of the 2016 Made in Colorado "Most Ethically Produced " award. This Denver-based 501(c)3 nonprofit manufacturer has a serious social mission.

You can do these exercises at your desk

Regardless of how ergonomic your chair is, sitting can lead to back pain, headaches and listlessness, which can all lead to a decrease in productivity. Try these desk exercises to incorporate some exercise into those busy work days.

Three great ways you can control rising health care costs

Technology is helping benefit managers save time and a few headaches. But all these new "shiny metal objects" are distracting employers from focusing on the one strategy that has stood the test of time.
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Thanks for contributing to our community-- please keep your comments in good taste and appropriate for our business professional readers.

Add your comment: