Have you ever worked for a great leader or manager? What did you like about the person? Have you ever worked for a poor leader or manager? What was it that he or she did that really gave you heartburn? Were they a micromanager? In your face? A poor listener? You can learn from great leaders and managers what to do and from poor managers and leaders what not to do. In practice what are the three biggest things to avoid as a great collaborator with others? These are: don’t be so critical, don’t worry so much about the future, and don’t make unrealistic expectations on yourself or others. Let’s take a look at each.


1. Criticizing others and passing judgment quickly


This is so easy to do psychologically isn’t it. If everyone thought the same as you the world would be a better place, right? Well we know that isn’t true. We also know how to avoid negative thoughts. To avoid most negative thoughts, we need to do two things. These are to not focus on self and to see the bigger picture in the world. If we can do these two things, we can avoid criticizing others and passing judgment so quickly. We can’t help it. We are hard wired to judge others by sex and race as initial impressions. However, knowing this, we can force ourselves to realize where we are coming from and force ourselves to stop and reflect. This takes time and practice. We have to be proactive to reduce negative attitudes towards others. We are able to reframe instead of reacting in a reflex mode. It is possible to hold off on criticizing others and passing judgment to quickly.


It’s not about me


We need to not focus on ourselves with words like me, my, and I. Advertisers do just the opposite every day with us, don’t they? They appeal to us to make wants into needs. We have to differentiate wants versus needs. Similarly, our brains are hard wired to be critical first, and to protect us so that our needs of food, water, sex and shelter are met. Before you speak consider is it kind, is it necessary and is it true. If any of the answers are no, then think about reframing the commentary in neutral or if possible, even in positive terms. As a mediator I have learned that this is a very good skill to have, and that even I continually need to enhance my skills. You can too, it’s not about me, it’s about we. How can what we do be even better than it would be with just me?


Is it worth getting angry about this?


Secondly, we only know what we know. We know what we can see, touch, taste, smell and hear. We also know intellectually about other things based on experiences and based on what we have learned. Intellectually, we know and realize the world is much a bigger place than what where you are right now. However, do we stop and think about things like sustainably, equality, and understanding on a wider level? Millennials (those born between 1981 -1995) are now the largest group in the workforce. Millennials are committed to implementing Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including equality, climate change, peace, justice, poverty, and prosperity according to Forbes. That is a change in focus from earlier generations. This is a cause for hope and it is one of the keys to overcoming negative thoughts. Realizing that we are only a very small part of a very big world, we can apply the butterfly concept that small changes in one thing can indeed result in major changes in other things.

So, to avoid allowing negative thoughts that lead to criticizing others, consider less thought about me and more about we for starters. Then consider the bigger picture. Is it worth being critical or negative in the scope of all things? Think of the truly big picture. This may help you overcome negative thoughts and stop you from being so critical. Then you will be less critical and so quick to judge others negatively.


2. Worrying to much about the future


Currently we have a lot to worry about looking at the future. Think about the Coronavirus and the impact COVID-19 is having on our society, the economy, and the world. What about global warming, the potential of some third state (like North Korea) initiating a world war between two super powers like China and the U.S., food production, unemployment, world finance and a host of other topics. It does not take long for you to find issues to worry about.




However, what is this really about? It is about change. There are things we can control and those that we cannot. We need to focus on what we can control in a world that is changing all around us. Individually we have a hard time with change. We have to go through an element of grief to realize the past is the past. With that will we ever return to “normal” or what will the “new normal” look like? It is appropriate to grieve the past. But then we need to move to a neutral zone to consider the future. This is the time when we are determining what are our new roles with our changing environment? We are creating and learning new processes. As this unfolds, we are moving into the new environment. This is a bit scary. On the one hand it is an opportunity. On the other hand, it is a bit chaotic and definitely uncertain.


What can I do now?


Worrying about the future takes energy away. Instead of worrying about the future, great collaborators, focus on the hear and now considering the future and ask what should we be doing now. They solicit interaction, dialogue and collaboration with others that want to see the best possible futures we can generate together. Instead of worrying about the future and what could go wrong, get excited about what could go right. In Special Forces training soldiers are continually taught to ask the question “what else should I be doing right now”. Sometimes the answer is to kick back an relax. Other times it means prioritizing something else other than what you were doing. That is what you need to ask yourself too. “What else should I be doing right now?”


3. Making unrealistic expectations


It is important to have high expectations about yourself and those you work with. This can help you and help others to be their best. However, at the same time there are many things outside of your and their control. Knowing what you can control, simply do your best. Encourage others to do their best. Be there for them. Don’t make unrealistic goals. Set them and you up for success. Give them the tools they need from their perspective. Create a vision of you and others succeeding. When things don’t work out, take stock of the situation, learn from it and move on. Don’t blame. Never give up hope and never deceive yourself about current reality.

Similarly, with worrying to much about the future, focus on the here and now and what you can do to help your team. Make realistic expectations. A one thousand percent improvement can be made up of one percent improvement of 1,000 small items. Keep that in mind and focus on the tasks at hand.

  1. Validate the concerns of team members.
  2. Set up ways to encourage sharing of information and aligning work with expectations.
  3. Meet with your team members with where they are at, not with where you hoped they would be.

We are a team we are in this together. Great collaborators understand this and search out others that want to be part of this type of team. So, what is it you should not do?

  1. Don’t criticize others and pass judgment so quickly
  2. Don’t worry too much about the future
  3. Don’t make unrealistic expectations

If you follow this approach of what not to do you may very well find yourself taking steps with your team for the better and you will be seen as being a courageous collaborator.


About the author


Mike is a former IRS executive that oversaw business valuation nationally and who brought mediation to the IRS Field Specialists Program. He is a professional speaker, mediator/negotiator that helps clients resolve issues and be more productive as a conflict resolution expert. Is conflict blocking your results? You may contact Mike directly at mg@mikegreg.com and at (651) 633-5311. Mike has written 11 books including, The Servant Manager, Business Valuations and the IRS, and Peaceful Resolutions that you may find helpful. [Michael Gregory, ASA, CVA, NSA, MBA, Qualified Mediator with the Minnesota Supreme Court]

About the author

Mike Gregory is a professional speaker, an author, and a mediator. You may contact Mike directly at mg@mikegreg.com and at (651) 633-5311. Mike has written 12 books (and co-authored two others) including his latest book, The Collaboration Effect: Overcoming Your Conflicts, and The Servant Manager, Business Valuations and the IRS, and Peaceful Resolutions that you may find helpful. [Michael Gregory, ASA, CVA, MBA, Qualified Mediator with the Minnesota Supreme Court]