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Focus on positives to avoid excuses

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in Leaders & Managers,Leadership Skills

Craig Ross was hired by a company to help its leaders innovate more effectively. The consultant faced a tough challenge.

He met a talented and intelligent group who represented a cross-section of the large organization. Known internally as the Lightbulb Team, the group’s goal was to develop manufacturing technology to enhance customer service.

Almost immediately, Ross detected a problem: The participants failed to connect well with each other.

During one-on-one interviews with key players on the team, it became clear to Ross that they preferred to gripe and point fingers rather than take responsibility for making a positive contribution.


“The problem is that no one is following our established process,” a project manager told Ross.

“Nothing’s going to change until leadership changes,” a lead engineer complained.

“I’m trying to talk ‘corporate’ into giving me four hours to take everyone through our high-performing teams training program,” the lead human-resources person said.

Diagnosing what ailed the Lightbulb Team, Ross concluded that individuals were preoccupied with gathering evidence to prove that they couldn’t succeed. That prevented them from taking reasonable steps to work together and look past their differences.

Innovation stalls when groups dwell on acrimony—and refuse to build on each other’s ideas and insights.

Voicing self-defeating beliefs almost guarantees that a team will sputter. While no one expects everyone to become best friends, it’s important that team members adopt a can-do attitude and respect each other’s strengths.

— Adapted from Do Big Things, Craig Ross, Angela Paccione & Victoria Roberts, John Wiley & Sons.

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