Embrace the Negative
I had one client where I ultimately had to end our coaching relationship. Adversity had hit the business and it was bleeding. We found out that a major reason was his highly paid, non performing brother who worked in the business. Not only was spending the salary on this brother a waste, the negative example that his brother did set in the organization was killing the morale and culture in the company, leading to even more problems.
“So I have to let him go…” concluded my client, finally.
“Yes, if you want to bring some money home for your family to live on… You will yes. When will you tell him?”
“I will have it done by next week.”
For two months this conversation repeated, and the business bled more and more. Yet he never let his brother go. He promised to, but never get to actually deal with the adversity of confronting his brother.
No matter how often we role-played how the conversation would go, he could not confront this particular problem. I fired him as a client, and three months later the business closed its doors. The brother still present…
Character dimension 4: to Embrace the Negative and Confronting Problems well
In our discussion on the elements that make up a success driven character, we have reached the fourth of the character dimensions. This dimension is about the
- Embrace the Negative
- And Confront Problems Well
Some would say, this is the dimension of the ‘Fixers’, people that are excellent troubleshooters.
Embracing the negative
Have you ever postponed going to the doctor? Or going to the dentist?
Ever avoided looking at the scales?
Have you ever met someone who goes in hiding when things go wrong?
Do you know why this is? It is because our normal tendency is to enjoy our comfort zone. To do whatever is most comfortable, even if it is not going to get you to ‘profit’ (whatever that is). The living in the NOW is more important than the results of your behavior in the future.
This procrastination is a sign of having a weaker deserve level in this character dimension. Whereas people with a high deserve level are good at ‘Embracing the Negative’.
What does this ‘Embracing the Negative’ mean?
It is about your ability, habit in fact, to find out what is going on, own it, and know how to confront the problems without leaving a trail of dead bodies in your wake.
- This character dimension is all about how well you can ignore your own comfort zone when confronted with something negative (known as ‘being above the line’),
- how quickly you can recover of emotional setbacks and
- how well you can disconnect person from results.
For those who are leaders, being strong in this dimension is essential: the leaders who are respected are the ones who can be depended on to deal with things directly and competently. The leaders who ignore the elephant in the room by avoiding to deal clearly and decisively with a person that is hurtful (to others or the organization) loose the confidence and respect of the others in the team.
A good sign of being strong in this character dimension is the habit to ‘actively seek out the negative in order to resolve it’.
This reminds us of ‘Murphy’s law’. The infamous Edward Murphy is supposed to have said that ‘Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.’ What people forget though, is that there are two ways to deal with this ‘law’. You can sour and hide behind it, from the perspective of ‘see, I told you it will go wrong’, or deal with it the way Murphy’s colleague Stapp would later describe it: because of this, you will go through all the possibilities on how things can happen the wrong way, and then act to counter them.
The sour, ‘see I told you’ is a low level of thinking in this dimension, the ‘let’s go through all the bad scenarios and prevent them from happening’ is at the higher end of this dimension.
Another important part of this ‘Embracing the Adversity’ dimension is ‘the ability to recover quickly’ (regain functioning after being dealt a heavy mental loss) versus the behavior of some people who go in hiding when things go wrong.
Did you know that one of the best predictors of a successful marriage is the couple’s ability to recover from a disconnection, conflict or problem?
Lastly, besides the drive to address the negative, and the ability to recover from bad events, the truly successful are to disconnect the person from the results: high achievers do not derive their sense of who they are or how they feel, from the outcomes of their performance. Results are the results, the self is the self.
In other words, when something goes wrong, admit your role, but don’t shift to self blame, as that depowers your drive to deal with it better if there would be a next time.
The Ability to ‘Confront’ well
– Lack of confrontation, often leaves a mess.
As business coaches we often have to tell our clients:
“You get what you tolerate”
– Doing a confrontation not well, will also leave a mess. The combative, angry, critical or demeaning confronter does not solve problems: he or she usually drives problems more deeply into hiding by creating an atmosphere of fear rather than resolution.
– To confront well, your truth side of your character must be integrated with the loving (caring) side of your character. Confront the problem but in a way that preserves the relationship and the person. Deviate on one or the other side and the problem might get worse.
Confrontation: Go hard on the Issue, but soft on the person
And remember, ‘honesty without love, is not integrity’. Yes, you have to present people the honest facts about their behavior, even if that is painful. But if you do that without love, you will only tear down, not build up.
Note that to do a successful confrontation; you need the ability to let bad things go as well.
In fact this whole part of character integrity, ‘how to do confrontations well’ can almost be reduced to ‘the more you care about the results of the confrontation, the better the confrontation will be’.
The more you care about the results of the confrontation, the better the confrontation will be.
One of the best things you can do before going into a confrontation is to ask “what do I want to happen as a result of this confrontation? How can I can confront the problem, make the relationship stronger, help the person develop and empower their development?”
Another aspect here is that you must follow up. Confronting a problem is a process, not an event.
There is another way to explain the ‘ability to confront well’, which is, that the more you are able to treat the confrontation like
“You and I, versus the problem”
As well as
“The best way to solve a problem, is to not have it in the first place.”
The better you will be in this dimension of embracing adversity.
Maybe the ‘not to have a problem in the first place’ sounds too easy to you, so let’s give a tip here:
If you have a ‘cringe’, that is the feeling that something is not right, don’t do whatever it is you intend to do at all. Optimists tend to fall for this one. They have that cringe, but then say “we’ll work it out”.
For example, do not hire that person that you do not really want, ‘but we have to fill that place quick’.
If you are one of those people that make hasty decisions, you should consider having a ‘decision matrix’ in place for common decision making processes such as investing in new equipment, or hiring new employees. An ounce of prevention, is worth a pound of cure!
 that aspect has been handled as part of the dimension 3, the ability to finish well.