By Tim Chidester – Senior Facilitator
They’ve always been there. Whether their arms were physically crossed or not. In any group activity, team, or ensemble you’ve been a part of since you were a child, there has always been one. Or two. Hopefully not more than that. I empathize wholeheartedly with you if there were more than two.
The eye-roller, the head-shaker, the loud-sigher – the person, who when they find out what they are doing, doesn’t want to be there and is wondering why you are wasting their time. The person who loves to say, “No!” They’d rather sarcastically judge and joke than risk and join. This is the Cross-Armed Crowd.
You run into a negative person in the morning, you ran into a negative person; You run into negative people all day, you’re the negative person.
– Raylan Givens, “Justified”
So, how do you get buy in from this group and still motivate and create a positive environment for the people who get on board right away? When running a workshop the Cross-Armed Crowd used to throw me and my stress level would spike. I would become obsessed with how I was going to change their minds and, as a result, I would focus entirely on them – sometimes to the detriment of the rest of the group.
After some time I realized that I didn’t need to focus on them. I needed to focus on creating an environment and atmosphere for them to be comfortable enough to join, laugh, learn, and thrive. Because the best workplaces create confident employees and confident employees create a confident culture.
The best workplaces create confident employees and confident employees create a confident culture.
- “Start as you mean to go on.” – Charles Haddon Spurgeon.
- Decide right away about how you want your environment to function from square one. To put the Cross-Armed Crowd at ease at the beginning of my workshops I’ll usually say “I’m not asking you to act or improvise, I’m asking you to commit.” Acting or improvising can be scary and nerve-racking to the uninitiated. It still can be that way for many of us who do it for a living! Being nervous is just on the other side of the door to excitement! But to commit means to surrender judgment, even if it’s only for a little while. Committing isn’t half as scary as acting or improvising can be to some. So ASK for that commit from your group. Don’t waver on your vision of how you want the culture within your business or team to be. You set the tone. Confidently decide on what you want the tone to be and embrace it fully and purposefully. This will inspire others to embrace it fully without hesitation or skepticism.
- Explain the “Why” behind the “What”.
- Don’t just tell them what they doing; tell them why they are doing it. The Cross-Armed Crowd will be watching for this. Being self-assured and openly discussing with an employee or team member about why they are doing a project or shifting the way things are done can assist in removing their judgment. Then they will approach the situation with strength and confidence. And remember to share your enthusiasm, humor, and confidence! Enthusiasm, humor, and confidence are infectious!! Look at all those exclamation points!!! And be authentic about it. This is extremely important. You need to walk the walk. Just saying “Do this”, without showing how you’re going to implement your own actions to make it a success, will only breed apathy and resentment from the Cross-Armed Crowd. We judge ourselves by our intentions, we judge other people by their actions. Good intentions don’t validate bad information or lack of information. Show, don’t tell.
We judge ourselves by our intentions, we judge other people by their actions. Good intentions don’t validate bad information or lack of information. Show, don’t tell.
- “Yes, And” instead of “No, Because.”
- As much as the Cross-Armed Crowd would like you to believe it, you can’t create and edit at the same time. “No” is easy. “No” is control. “No” is lazy. “No” is safety. “No” can be a default setting for many people. “No, Because” is combative. “Yes, And” is collaborative. To change that culture, implementing “Yes, And” meetings and brainstorm sessions can instantly have a positive effect. Tell your employees or co-workers that you want to hear any and all ideas. No matter how far-fetched or out-there they may seem. And everyone in the meeting or brainstorm session HAS to contribute. In the end, the best ideas will rise to the top and those ideas will be from the entire group. Everyone will have skin in the game. Everyone wants to be heard and valued no matter their place in the company. “Yes, And” lets everyone feel heard and valued. Even the reluctant Cross-Armed Crowd.
- Laugh and Learn.
- You can take what you do seriously without taking yourself seriously. I believe in laughing first and learning second. Humor boosts retention. As a Senior Facilitator at Second City Works, I want you to laugh first because when you laugh you retain information more easily and then the learning will follow and adhere more readily. And I’m not talking about humor in the form of sarcasm, put-downs, or being cruel and inappropriate. Those are the refuge of the judgmental Cross-Armed Crowd. We at Second City Works want to laugh WITH you, not AT you. I’m talking about, and believe in, the power of humor that comes from an honest place and enhances the learning, brings people together, and develops a sense of community and team.
I believe in laughing first and learning second.
I know it seems easier to judge and not fully participate. To roll your roll your eyes, shake your head, and sigh out loud. Being a part of the Cross-Armed Crowd can make you feel in control of yourself and your environment but in actuality, it is none of those things. When you’re the only person left because the entire group is participating it is time to uncross your arms and join. And laugh.