9 Ways to save you from being the Red Flag teammate

In the video linked below, Peter Bregman (CEO of a global management consulting firm which advises CEOs and their leadership teams) shares a story about consulting with a company whose staff put a red flag outside the CEO’s office to warn people against going in to his office. He says everyone knew the CEO was difficult, but the CEO didn’t know his reputation was so damaged until Bregman explained the red flag hanging outside his office.

click to open the video on a separate page

click to open the video on a separate page

Why is it bad to be the red flag person?

1.      You might not get to use the full power of your brain or experience if people don’t want you on their teams.

2.      Red flag people cause others to waste time and energy trying to accommodate them or fix their issues.

3.      It can be lonely when no one wants to be around you.

4.      Being a downer might go against your personal mission or goals.

5.      You might get stuck in a spot along your career journey where you don’t want to stay.

6.      It is exhausting to be so negative.

As Bregman says, “When we are not aware of the feelings, they take us with them.” We have feelings all day long without thinking about them, and when we don’t pay attention to them, the feelings can cause us to become a negative force in the office. They can cause us to become the Red Flag people.

While I do not want anyone reading this to be a Red Flag person, I also do not want you to repress your feelings. Some “gurus” tell us not to take things personally or to leave our feelings at the door as we arrive at work. But, I don’t think that helps either.

I’ve written and spoken extensively about being all-in. Living and leading all-in means you bring your brain, heart, hands, eyes, and everything about yourself to your life. That includes work. So, contrary to some popular “gurus,” I do think we should take things personally. Work is personal, and companies do better when people have strong feelings about it. However, we can control how we behave in response to our feelings so we don’t become the Red Flag people.

Bregman’s main advice in the video is to recognize how you’re feeling. Here are nine additional tips to help you avoid becoming the Red Flag person on your team:

1.      Slow down, breath, pause and get used to your feelings. Understanding your feelings can help you deliberately adapt your behavior. Don’t repress your feelings; identify them.

2.      Decide how you need to act to maintain your professional relationships and reputation. You don’t have to address the feelings right away, but you do have to choose your behavior. Unlike a three-year old whose tantrums are cute to onlookers, we can control our behavior.

3.      Refrain from over-sharing feelings, especially regarding personal matters that will be highly scrutinized and may be repeatedly discussed.

4.      Use support resources like your workplace friends, your manager, your company’s internal coach, or other external support.

5.      Honor personal boundaries—your own and others’. Certain topics are not ideal for the workplace and could make colleagues uncomfortable, so be aware of others’ personal boundaries.

6.      If you can’t focus, take time off. The best professionals know when they need to take themselves out of the game to recuperate.

7.      Respect your colleagues’ time. Your best friends at work have their own work to complete each day, and they have their own personal issues to manage.

8.      Respect your job, team, and employer by doing great work. If you’ve decided you can show up for work, then be a stellar teammate while you are there.

9.      Once the situation improves, thank the people who supported you through it.

These tips can help you understand and respond to your feelings without repressing them or letting them steer you toward becoming the Red Flag teammate.

How you can ace Georgetown University’s challenge

Okay, so most of our SAT scores might not prompt Georgetown to offer us scholarships. Maybe we wouldn’t coast through with straight A’s. But, there is one challenge Georgetown just issued that everyone could ace. I think we all can do it.

In the usual rush through our day, we walk by people without noticing them. In fact, we might even have conversations without really noticing people. Think about the store clerk, coffee shop barista, or copy center employee. How often do you have time to truly pay attention to those folks? If your mind is focused on your day, it might naturally cause you to overlook people, assuming their minds are just as preoccupied. There is no negative intention, and probably no rudeness either.

All In strategy #3 is Notice Others. Stop letting what’s on your mind cause you to overlook others. One business student at Georgetown did just that. Mr. Bellamy and Mr. Batchelor both have nightly routines at Georgetown’s library. Mr. Bellamy studies at the library, and Mr. Batchelor cleans it. One recent evening, Mr. Bellamy stuck up a conversation and what an All In experience happened after that.

It turned out, the janitor had similar ambitions as the business student. The janitor makes great curry chicken and wanted to open a business. The business student used his skills to help his new friend get started. Now, Mr. Batchelor’s chicken is famous on campus and he is on his way to operating a successful business.

The story doesn’t stop there, however. Here's what happened at Georgetown:

Mr. Bellamy noticed even more people on campus—cashiers, cooks, cleaning staff, and more. He and his friends started listening to the stories of the people working on their campus, and they began to help some of them. One man is going to visit his family in South Sudan for the first time in 45 years, thanks to help from the Georgetown community.

Georgetown formalized the effort to create more opportunities for connections between staff and students, and they call it Unsung Heroes.

Georgetown is All In! They have habit #3 down! Their students issued a challenge for the rest of us. They challenge us to notice unsung heroes in our own lives. Are you in?

Can you slow down enough to pay attention to the people you come in contact with each day? Notice them, talk to them, listen and learn from them. Can you establish an Unsung Heroes connection program at your school or workplace?

Maybe we all cannot beat Georgetown student’s SAT scores, but we can join them in living All In by noticing others.

(Source: Washington Post 10/13/2016) 

Happiness is over-rated

“Cut the happiness crap, Tyler!”

That’s what a coworker used to holler at me when I was cheerful at the water cooler at 7:00am each work day. He said it with a smile and proclaimed he was teasing, but it stuck with me. Twenty-five years later, I think that guy was on to something.

There is a lot written about happiness these days. Amazon has 22,329 books on the subject right now. A Google search found 46 million articles, with most promising to tell us how to be happier and why we should seek happiness. I have read a few articles about happiness, and I agree with much of what is researched and written about it. However, there is something missing.

There are three perspectives overlooked in the highly publicized search for happiness millions seem to be conducting, and they are worth pondering.

  1. The expectation to be happy. If we expect to be happy all the time, we will be thrown off when life takes an unavoidable turn. The fact is, life’s journey includes some detours once in a while. People get sick, companies close down, children become teenagers. Life happens, and it’s not always full of skipping through sunflowers whistling Zippity Doo Dah. When we expect to be happy every day, we either shove the sadness deep inside to hide it or we are overwhelmed by the bad stuff and get stuck in misery.
  2. The pressure to be happy. The peer pressure to be happy causes stress and can damage relationships. When you’re struggling with one of life’s obstacles, and you turn to a friend for support, do you love it when the friend says, “You shouldn’t be disappointed by your manager leaving the company. The new one will be even better.” We don’t really enjoy someone else pressuring us to “get over it.” We all have feelings we need to grapple with, and we will do so in good time. Pressure not to feel the sadness is not helpful.
  3. The lost opportunities caused by happiness. The expectation and pressure to be happy cause us to miss out on the benefits of adversity. In our effort to be happy every minute, we are likely to take fewer risks or deny a challenge facing us. Happiness can blind us of reality and prevent us from rising above obstacles, which is unfortunate because there are few feelings better than those experienced after surmounting an obstacle or staring down a challenge. We rob ourselves of those feelings by trying to stay happy all the time.

When we deny life’s detours or go out of our way to avoid them entirely, we are telling ourselves a few things. We’re saying, “You’re not capable of overcoming that obstacle.” Or, “You’re not good enough to figure out a new way.” Or, “No one cares if you reach the destination.”

Let’s not sabotage ourselves with such negativity. Instead, let’s face the reality of all situations and let’s face challenges head-on. Look forward to the sense of accomplishment, don’t avoid it. We don’t have to “cut the happiness crap” completely. Let’s just keep it in perspective.