Recently, I was leaving a local arena with my family after attending a hockey game. Our local winter weather tears our roads apart and therefore created some necessary road work to be done that was in currently in progress. Therefore, instead of two lanes leading north out of the parking lot there was only one lane and it didn’t take very long until several cars including ours were boxed in.The car in front of us was crowded with young people eager to get going. In order to get out of the parking spot and into the traffic, a girl stepped out of the car to direct traffic. She stood in front of the next car in the exit line blocking the car. An act, we often see.

Leading in a stressful environmentHowever, the act infuriated the blocked car’s driver. With a smirk on drivers face and a “me first” attitude, the driver eased the car forward almost pinning the young girl between the two cars. While people in both cars were too impatient for the situation, the driver’s action was potentially dangerous. Had the driver accidentally pressed the gas pedal instead of the brake, the girl would have been badly injured if not killed. This driver’s “me first” attitude was noticed by several other drivers. In an unspoken group effort, the errant driver was deliberately boxed in for several extra minutes while others exited.

With the all the negative news on television, radio and newsprint, many people may demonstrate this “me first” mentality. We can understand their fear, as no one wants to lose their job, income, or current standard of living. Yet, this mentality harms not only harms team members and the organization, but that person’s competence and performance as well. When their intentions are to prove their personal importance, they tend to make less desirable decisions, sabotage other’s efforts, and in the end bring their fear to fruition.

As a leader you can do many things to help avert this “me first” behavior. Consider the following as you choose your course of action

  1. Remain positive in your speech and actions. Your team will reflect your attitude; if you are positive, team members will feel more secure.
  2. Keep communication lines open with everyone. Don’t keep secrets. Secrets have a way of being shared and peoples trust in you can be lost.
  3. Give constant and honest feedback. Don’t lie; people recognize a lie very quickly. Lies generate fear.
  4. Encourage innovation and creativity. Ask them to look for processes that can streamline, boost efficiency, or increase savings. Make them a part of the solution.
  5. Impress on individuals that through team effort the organization can survive a negative environment. There is power in numbers if corrective action is taken.
  6. Encourage employee development through training. Training increases the feeling of security (If the organization values me enough to train me, then I am important).

If you remain optimistic, the members will respond in a like manner. Your team will not continue to perform proficiently but serve as a model of teamwork to others in the organization.

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About the Author
Martha Rice

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