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Leading the Constant Naysayer

Leadership is a tough job. It is not for the faint at heart or those not willing to push past challenges. No leader can ever attest to not experiencing difficulties in leading people, resources, and tasks. Most times, leading people is the hardest of the three. There will be people on a team that are willing to understand and embrace change. Others will be indifferent. There will potentially be the infamous constant naysayer. What is the constant naysayer, you ask? The constant naysayer is the team member that, in every verbal, physical, and emotional communication they share, they intend to criticize and object. Naysayers can be helpful. If appropriately assessed, the naysayer can help a leader develop in ways that other team members can not. Here are a few things that a leader can do to manage that constant naysayer and, in turn, become more equipped in their leadership skills.

  1. Look to understand the individual as an individual. What are their motivations? Are they currently experiencing challenges of their own that are keeping them from accepting outside changes? Most naysayers may not have an issue with the actual decision that is being made. Sometimes their reactions are driven by emotion. My dad always told me, 'You can't solve an emotional problem with logic.' This statement couldn't be more accurate. If someone is experiencing their challenges, they are often not open to anything else. This can be displayed by consistent criticism. Find creative ways to understand them better.

  2. Have a conversation. If the naysayer does not publicly offer their logic for their criticism, privately or openly, have a conversation with them to gain their reasoning. It is possible that their criticism could be constructive if communicated differently.

  3. Assign them a project task. If they are critical of a project or change that will be happening, let them lead the mission. Just because they are a naysayer does not mean that they can not provide valuable input and action to the team. Put controls in place to ensure they do not sabotage the project, but hold them accountable for a successful outcome.

  4. Do not take their constant criticism personal. Step one to being an effective leader is being confident. Confidence is critical, especially when making decisions that you know someone on the team may object to. Remember the reason you came up with the decision. Ignore the negativity that may follow and do not take it personally. Most people's actions have absolutely nothing to do with you and zero impact on your progress.

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