Gut Check – Getting Back Up

"I didn't hear no bell."
“I didn’t hear no bell.”

This barber, he had to be seventy, was telling me once while trimming me up how he just had a whole bunch of cancer surgically removed about a week earlier. Tough old dog, I thought. “I can’t believe you’re back to work already.”

“You ever been in a fight before?” he asked. I nodded. “Then you know when you get knocked down you gotta get back up. Otherwise they’ll just kick the shit out of you.” Tough.

One thing that stuck with me from my years of youth/high school football was the theme of overcoming adversity. A bad penalty or turnover or a key player gets hurt or the team loses a close one, etc. what defines a great team is how they respond to challenges like these.

Over the course of any career, there are high points and low points, and I know a few people riding through the trough on their career roller coasters right now. Granted, career/business adversity is just made up adversity, and a tough quarter for sales is nothing compared to the personal challenges life can throw at you (like going back to work after cancer surgery). But this post is about overcoming a rough patch at work.

Everyone is a victim to business factors outside of their control from time to time: bad weather, jerk bosses, unfair budgets, lazy coworkers, and whatever other “business factors” you can think of. But when you really think about it, these business factors are just lame excuses. Losers talk about these things, that is things outside of their control.

Winners can smell the rot of complacency in the workplace. Smells like you turned over an old dead log in the woods that you wish you hadn’t. The rot of complacency is what turns a bad week into a bad month into a bad quarter into a bad year into a longing for the “good old days.”

A manager with urgency, standards, and energy can cut the rot of complacency and the habit of losing out of the workplace before they spread.

Here are some behaviorally specific things a manager can do when faced with adversity in the workplace, during a time of losing and complacency.

  • Make someone better today than they were yesterday by training them on a controllable metric or controllable aspect of their job.
  • Set a high goal for a team member and demand that the two of you find a way to get there together by a set deadline.
  • Fire those who are intentionally doing the wrong thing in the workplace.
  • Hire someone better.
  • Talk with passion about the bold vision of the future organization, and what team members can do today to get the org back on track.
  • Highlight winners on the team who are finding ways to win, learn from them, and spread their behaviors.
  • Call out people who are making excuses and believing their own BS. Let them know you won’t accept excuses because EXCUSES ARE THE NAILS THAT BUILT THE HOUSE OF FAILURE.
  • NGU – Never Give Up – on a goal, on winning, on team members who are trying their best.
  • Check your own attitude. Pull your head out of your own ass, quit moping around, and get back in the fight.
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