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 Lessons about teamwork from the Kansas City Royals


The Royals baseball team has invigorated Kansas City! After last night’s victory that takes the team to the pennant race, players were celebrating downtown with their fans. Tweet of gratitude were sent by players, along with the invitation to celebrate at an Irish pub downtown. The players thanked the city and were happy to win for the city.

I went to one home game this season, and it was on September 17, 2014, near the end of the season. The Royals beat the White Sox during that game, but the crowd stood out to me. I can’t judge good technique of a ballplayer, but I can tell when the crowd is electrified. It was different than any game I had been to in KC for the past ten years. I lived in Chicago and went to Cubs games prior to moving back here ten years ago. The KC fans were like the Cubs fans: in love with their team.
What makes this team so special? Why did fans across the city fall in love with this team? Why is this team selling Royals gear to fans across the whole country?

So far, I think it comes down to three things:
  1. There is no one superstar. There is no one trying to make a name for himself or to out-shine the rest of the team. Their egos are in check, and it shows.
  2. The team likes each other. There is a high degree of trust that each person will do his job really well. When they need help, they call on each other and are heard. The camaraderie shows between innings, in the dugout, and during warm-ups. It’s palpable when they celebrate home runs and victories.
  3. They are not insane. Isn’t the definition of insanity when you keep doing the same thing but expect different results? This team changed its strategies. They worked hard on being fast, stealing bases, and putting themselves in the position to score. The hitters aren’t swinging for the fence every time. They work to get on base. The team has focused on small steps that yield points. Oh, but they’ll sure that the homeruns that come!

The Royals are doing what many other successful teams have done: they put the team first, trust each other, and create the opportunity to win. Workplace teams can do those things too. It is time to Be Royal!

Dog poo in the living room


Every morning at about 6:00, I get the pleasure of taking Miles, the greatest dog in the world out for his “morning constitution.”

As you might expect, there is a routine involved and it is rarely altered. Miles and I go out the front door, down the front walk, around to the back of the house, along the woods, then into the high field where business is done. Miles leaves “pee mail” at various trees and bushes along the way to keep in touch with the other pups and small animals in the area who have a similar routine.
Yesterday began like any other day. Miles led the way out the front door, down the walk, around to the back, along the woods, but then he froze. He would not go into the field with the high grass. He just looked at me with an expression saying, “I’m not going in there.” Then he turned and walked back to the house the same way we always return.
I knew what threw Miles off his morning routine: deer. A mother deer and her two little ones have been living in the woods behind the house, and they have come out to our yard and into the field back there. Miles had seen them from the deck, so his senses were on high alert.
Miles was calm when we returned to the house. It was 6:30 on Sunday morning, so I went back to bed. About fifteen minutes later, Miles was running through the house. He scampered through each room, up and down the hallway, and all around. Of course, I got up to check on him, but nothing was amiss. He didn’t whimper, there was no thunder, and no one was knocking on the door. I returned to bed for about an hour.

When I got out of bed to start the day, Miles didn’t greet me like he usually does. I knew something was amiss now. When I reached the living room, I could smell something amiss, then I saw the mess. Luckily, the mess was not big and it was easy to clean up. A quick cleaning and the rug was like new. But, Miles felt terrible. He had a guilty look on his face and he clearly felt bad for his unusual behavior.

My husband, Bob, and I spent several minutes reassuring Miles that he was a good boy. We knew he did not need punishment because he had never done this before. He was punishing himself enough. He needed empathy from us. We were happy to offer it. His demeanor returned to normal later in the day, and all was well.

Until this morning.
I awoke around 6:00am to take Miles outside. We followed our traditional routine: out the front door, down the walk, around to the back, along the woods, over to the field. Just like yesterday, Miles stopped. He would not enter the field. I even tried to nudge him in there to take care of business, but he would not go. We had been out for a while, and I had to get ready for work, so we returned back to the house.

But, today, I did not assume Miles was fine. After all, he still had not handled his morning business. Bob took Miles out for a walk in a different area, which is part of their morning routine, and business was handled. When I left for work, the rug was fine. Oh, Miles and Bob were fine too.

What strikes me about the living room poo experience is how routines get altered. Although Miles and I have the same routine each day, we have different experiences in that routine. He was afraid of the deer, I was not. I assumed he would feel the same way I did, and I dismissed his feelings. My assumption contributed to the poo on the rug.
Doesn’t the same thing happen at work? Of course, there’s no poo on the rug here, but there are consequences when we assume things about each other or overlook other’s experiences. Do you ever assume people think the same way you think or feel the same way you do about the same experience? We take each other for granted, then mistakes happen or time-consuming C.Y.A. takes over communication.

One other thought to ponder was the forgiveness for the error. Miles does not poo in the living room all the time, so we did not need to punish him or instill new rules. We needed to learn from the mistake and set him up for success next time. How good are people at doing that for colleagues? Or, are we better at blaming them and holding a grudge?
Pay attention to routines, what alters them, and how others feel about them. And, forgive people when altered routines cause errors. Keep your senses on high alert so you can set people up for success, and you won’t miss the signals that poo is on the way.