Step Up, Moments That Matter – Leveraging Pessimism

Henry: Hi, I’m Henry Evans, Managing Partner at Dynamic Results.

Colm: And I’m Dr. Colm Foster, Senior Associate at Dynamic Results. Henry and I are coauthors of “Step Up: Lead in Six Moments that Matter.” You can follow me on Twitter @DrColmFoster.

Henry: And you can always follow me on Twitter @HenryJEvans.

In our book “Step Up: Lead in Six Moments that Matter,” we offer the idea that anyone can lead if they understand the six critical moments in which leadership is needed, and of course, what to do when they find themselves in one of those moments. In our chapter entitled “Leveraging Pessimism,” we talk about how undervalued and underappreciated your pessimists might be, and also feel.

Colm: In our blog entitled “Attack the Idea, Not the Person,” we talk about the problem of terminal politeness, and how many teams fail to discuss critical issues in a timely manner. Your pessimist might just be the very person leading your team into a critical discussion that otherwise might be avoided.

Henry: You know, as a recovering optimist myself, I greatly appreciate those people in my company. They’re the ones that point out the problems or challenges that might get in our way that I’m either missing altogether, or that I may just be avoiding because I don’t want to face them.

Colm: We really think you should have these people on your team, but we don’t think they should be in senior leadership roles. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be lead into battle by someone who thinks we’re not going to leave the battlefield alive. So, how do we leverage that pessimism?

Henry: One way is to overtly thank that pessimist for the challenges that they raise. So, that might sound like this: “Mary, I appreciate all the concerns you’ve raised about the project we have in front of us. I think you just raised some issues that we might have otherwise missed or avoided. But I want to know from the rest of the room is what do you think about the challenges that Mary just raised.”

Colm: We all know examples of people who are written off as pessimists-who, while they may be been expressing their pessimistic viewpoint, turned out to be more like Nostradamus. I’m sure there are people at Kodak-probably pessimists-who suggested they should get into digital long before they lost their global dominance.

Henry: If you’re the pessimist on your team, your challenge is to continue to offer your ideas, but in a way that engages people and makes them want to hear you. That might sound like: “Hey, I don’t want to panic anybody and I don’t want to be too dramatic, but what I do want to do is get us focused on subject X because I think that it may get in our way, and that we should talk about it before we finalize our decision.”

Colm: So, what are examples of situations where you should desire or maybe even pursue some pessimism in your meetings? Well, things like quality or process audits, risk mitigation discussions, entering a new market, budget analysis. In summary, situations where you really want to risk-assure your decisions.

Henry: We want you to learn to love your pessimists. You may not like having them in the organization, but you need some of that pessimism in order to have a healthy dialogue. We look forward to bringing you more real-life examples of what we see working in the business world.

If you want to learn more about Stepping Up, contact us.

As always, we welcome your comments. Join us on Facebook to share your experiences, or email us at [email protected]

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