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.

3 ways leaders are like pizza

In a meeting this morning, a colleague spoke about the importance of rest. Mimi Gatschet (Founder of Art in Connection) talked about the importance of taking a break, and she equated it with pizza dough.

My dear Italian friend spoke about making homemade pizza dough and the way the ingredients work. Mimi described the way dough has to be worked so the ingredients come together, then the dough needs to rest overnight. After the rest, the dough is malleable and ready to become a tasty pizza.

What a terrific analogy!

Yes, we need to take breaks and turn our brains off so they can rejuvenate. The rest also enable us to tap into our strengths better, just like the ingredients of the dough do.  But, the dough is not the pizza. It is the foundation of the pizza. It needs more to become a pizza, just like we do.

Here are the 3 ways leaders need to be like pizza:

#1: Start with a solid foundation. 
In pizza, it’s the dough. In life, it’s the values, perspective, EQ, and personal make-up. Like Mimi said, we need to mix the ingredients in a way that enables them to work together and become the foundation of greatness.

#2: Enable collaboration. 
Collaboration is key because it takes more than dough to make a pizza. Similarly, it takes more than one leader to make a workplace thrive. Add the right ingredients. “Right” is key because what’s right for one is not for another. Just ask my husband. He likes spicy meat on pizza, while I like a variety of veggies and sometimes even pineapple. We always order half-and-half, and neither of us minds. Could workplace compromises become as simple? Obviously, many workplace challenges are not as simple as pizza. In those cases, select what is right for the Mission, and remember, there can be more than one right choice.

After selecting the right toppings, let them do their work. On pizza, we let the cheese melt all over the top so we can enjoy the wonderful flavor combination. At work, foster collaboration and empowerment. It takes more than dough to make a pizza, so be selective about the ingredients then enable let them be their best.

#3: Expect some heat before greatness. 
Once a pizza has been made, it’s still not ready to be devoured. It needs to bake. Baking brings out the best in the whole combination, just like the heat, or pressure, of deadlines and client demands brings out the best in most teams. Don’t be thrown off by some heat. No team holds hands singing Kumbaya throughout the entire project. But, don’t worry, a little heat can help a team rise and become its best.


Lead like a pizza: start with a solid foundation, collaborate with the best, and thrive after challenges. One last word of caution: In accordance with the pic from a friend, leaders don’t try to please everyone…you are not a pizza.

Lead like a pizza and you'll be All-In!

Can you think of additional similarities between leadership and pizza? Add to the list below.