Don’t Let Debbie Downer Take You Down

Saturday Night Live has a spoof about Negative Nellie’s and they call her Debbie Downer.

We all know people like this who are the Voice of Doom and the Doctor No’s.

Whatever the topic is–they’ve been there, done it, and have seen it fail–“We tried that before,” “That’s not the way we do things here,” “You just don’t understand,” “It will never work.”

They see danger and bad everywhere and in everything, even in the face of positive and promise.

These are the people who are obstinate, the naysayers, and are against change at all cost–they fear it or just don’t want to deal with it.

BusinessWeek has an interesting perspective on this–how even these people can be employed to have a beneficial impact on projects–by having them tell you everything that can go wrong, so you can take steps to plan and mitigate against these.

Some people only want to have positive people around them–“yes men,” who only tell them how smart and right they are all the time.

However, the best leaders don’t want kiss ups and brown nosers, but rather value”truth tellers,” who will provide them solid advice and guidance on issues, tell them when they think something is wrong or risky, and even take an opposing point of view or play devil’s advocate.

I remember when I was asked about whether a certain project was going to meet a very near deadline, and I said point blank, “Do you want me just to say yes or do you want me to tell you the truth?”

I got a big smile to that and the appreciation that I was real and truthful and there to make a difference and not just be another lump on the log.

The point is not to be a Debbie Downer or a brown noser, but to be an Honest Joe or Jane. 😉

Do Business With Good People

Robot_with_a_heart

While most companies run to do business with anyone with a checkbook or credit card, some amazing others are more discriminating.

In interview on Leadership in the New York Times (24 December 2011) with Ori Hadomi, the CEO of Mazor Robotics(they make robotic systems that aid in spinal surgeries) he states: “You can’t afford to working with people are not good people [you need to be selective]…you need to look at your vendors and your customers the same way.”

He actually “told one our salespeople recently that he didn’thave to sell our product to people who were not nice to him.”

Wow–this is powerful stuff.

It’s not about just the money, it’s about the meaning and feeling good about yourself, the organization, and what you are achieving,

Similarly, Hadomi has a different–better–philosophy on the role of the management that typically sees itself as making sure employees get the work done and work hard.  Hadomi states: I believe that my role is not to make people work, but to give them the right working conditions, so that they will enjoy what they do.”

On making mistakes, often a punishable offense in organizations, Hardomi states: “It’s natural that we make mistakes.”  The main thing is that we learn and solve them for the future.

With planning and communicating, while many organizations play their stakeholders and stockholders telling them everything is going to be just great–and this often is pronounced when companies reassure investors and others right before they were about to fall off the proverbial bankruptcy cliff.  However, Hardomi tells us that while positive thinking can help motivate people, it can also be dangerous to plan based on that and that instead in Mazor robotics, he establishes an executive as the devil’s advocate to “ask the right questions [and]…humble our assumptions.”

In working out problems, while email wars and reply-alls fill corporate email boxes, Hardomi cuts it off and says “after that second response…you pick up the phone.”  Problems can be resolved in 1/10 the time by talking to each other and even better “looking at the eyes of the other person.”

As we all know, too often, the number and length of meetings are overdone, and Hardomi has instead one roundtable a week–where everybody tells what they did and are planning to do–this synchronizes the organization.

Who does Hardomi like to hire, people that are self-reflective, self-critical, and can articulate their concerns and fears. These people are thoughtful, are real, and will make a good fit.

Hardomi sets the bar high for all us in breaking many traditional broken management paradigms–he is paving a new leadership trail that especially from a human capital perspective is worthy of attention and emulation.

(Photo adapted from herewith attribution to Gnsin and Honda)