Leading from Joy vs. Leading from Fear

How to Demoralize People When You are Aiming to do the Opposite

It was January of 2010. Our team came back after the holidays excited to get started. Right away we were under tremendous pressure. We had just raised our Series A sixty days earlier and we were already off track. Later, a VC friend joked to me that all companies have a bad first board meeting after their Series A, when the venture investors who backed the company realize that the assumptions in the model were rooted in hope rather than reality.

  1. Don’t criticize people. Instead, celebrate the people who are doing the best work and others will yearn for and lean into that sunlight. In Little Bets, Peter Sims talks about the culture of plussing at Pixar. The idea is to only point out the positive and ignore the negative. They use the word ‘and’, never ‘but’. As Jedi Joel always said, you catch more flies with honey. Feedback creates a sense of opportunity to get better; criticism creates shame and is experienced as castigation for not being better to begin with. In my limited experience, it’s best when feedback observes the John Gottman principle of the magical relationship ratio, 5:1 positive to constructive.
  2. Model gratitude. If you want people to work harder, don’t look down on them. Show them your gratitude towards what you do by modeling gratitude towards them. Create a culture of equals where people want to love their coworkers and belong to something great, rather than a tale of two cities with favorites and wannabes. Why would your employees respect you when do you don’t respect all of them?
  3. It’s all your fault. At the end of the day, remember your job as a leader is to inspire people. If you fail to do so, it’s not their fault; it’s yours. You have to figure out how to create culture. It’s in your control. Painful self-investigation into why you suck at motivating people is required, and blame for that needs to be internalized, not externalized, on other people.

Spirit animal @bonobos, swan hunter @redswan, brother @monicaandandy. I love cilantro but love even more the people that hate it

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