“Working with Eric was a pleasure. We developed a good rapport and established a level of honesty and trust. I valued his counsel and recommendations. I find Eric to be very competent in a variety of disciplines. He is able to correctly diagnose organizational problems and suggest solutions that are on point. I found Eric to be a professional with the highest levels of honesty, integrity, and ethical behavior. I would not hesitate to engage his services again in the future.”
former Corporate Services Director,
Department of Planning and Development,
City of Seattle
(Kathy is now Director of Planning and Finance for Advocacy and Communications at World Vision.)
“I've worked closely with Eric on developing and presenting the Leadership Eastside community leadership program. He has that rare blend of extensive real-world experience along with a very strong background in theory and research. He moves easily between big picture strategy and the tactical details. Eric brings a superb ability to plan, execute and follow-through, both as a behind-the-scenes planner and as an upfront instructor and facilitator.”
founding board member,
“This is a waste of time.”
“We don’t have enough resources, so there’s no point in trying.”
“They always ask us for our ideas and then never do anything with them.”
These are the words of the cynic. The person who cannot see anything good coming out of your project, program or effort.
They don’t want to invest in something that they think will fail. And, they’ve concluded that your project is going to fail.
In my view, most cynics are made, not born. Cynicism springs from idealism that has been destroyed by failed expectations and disappointments.As I often tell clients, no one enters the workforce in their 20s planning to get by until retirement.
There is a way to help a cynic to recover some of their power and idealism. The trick is to use their complaint to expose an underlying need or interest they want to be addressed.
As the influence leader, you have immense power to help the cynic to recognize that underlying need and acknowledge it yourself. At the root of this is listening. They have got to feel that they’ve been heard. Being heard—even by someone who’s not the “top dog”—can make a difference.
But, it’s not enough just to listen. You must also reframe their complaint into something useful. Look at these responses to the complaints at the top of this post:
“You want to make sure that you are working something that will actually happen.”
“You’d like to see more support for this project.”
“In the future, you want your contributions to be acknowledged.”
Reframing involves converting a negative comment into something neutral or positive. Use it to shift the focus to the future, not the past. Reveal information about the speaker and their needs—not their disappointments or someone else’s shortcomings.
Reframing is an important tool for the influence leader because you can shift the conversation from wherever you sit. You can help move people from a “culture of complaint” to one of progress and performance.