Thoughts about business and economic development in rural areas.


April 2008
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Archive for April, 2008

Not just another meeting – Part 2

Been a while since Part 1 so I thought I’d better get back to this topic. Here’s another idea that worked well for us while I was with Grant County Economic Development. We held monthly meetings and our attendance over 12 years was fantastic. Most of the credit goes to the communities and individuals who were committed to the program. But we also worked hard to make the meetings worth attending.

One of the best additions we made was the “Once Around.” At the end of each meeting we would give one spokesperson from each community the chance to give us a short update on what what had happened in their community since the last meeting. Just the highlights, skip the details. The spokesperson was required to stand during the report and most came prepared with at least one or two items to share.

Usually it wasn’t earthshattering stuff but it was important to them and that’s all that mattered. And we almost always got something from each community as community pride kept people from saying, “Nothing new since last month.”

That month’s host community wasn’t part of the “Once Around” as they had already given a more indepth report earlier in the meeting. That was one of the perks of hosting and everyone took good advantage of it.

This made active participants out of all meeting attendees and served as a monthly reminder that each community was an important participant in our economic development efforts. Over the years the “Once Around” became the most anticipated part of the evening. By making it personal we avoided becoming, “Just another meeting.”

Don’t let the *$%)@!#s get you down!

I’ve always been in awe of how powerful negative people can be. Take 5 people who want to do something and mix in one who believes it can’t be done and well, you can guess the outcome. Is it any wonder that most of the world’s creative geniuses do most of their work in solitude?

So what do we do when dealing with negative people? Here are some thoughts.

IGNORE THEM – Nice idea but it rarely works. I used to think I could build faster than they could destroy but I was wrong. Negative people can destroy a month’s worth of planning and work with a single phrase or even a single glance. Some of them disguise their efforts by saying they are supporting the groups efforts but they ‘just want them to know the facts.’ How helpful. They then proceed to point out the obstacles but never offer any solutions. Ignoring them is like ignoring cancer. It’s rare that either one ever goes away on their own.

CONFRONT THEM – Here’s the real first step. Now don’t do this in public. Take them aside for a talk. Every person deserves a fair hearing, even negative people. In many cases you will learn that they don’t perceive themselves as negative and they are being sincere when they say that. Often pointing out how they are impacting others will be a revelation to them and in a few cases that will be all that is needed. They will make efforts to change. Confronting people about their attitudes is awkward, difficult and uncomfortable but it is absolutely essential for the growth of your group or business. No, scratch the word ‘growth’ and replace it with ‘survival.’ Yeah, it’s THAT important.

WORK WITH THEM – After letting negative people know that their attitudes are not acceptable we need to be prepared to work with them to encourage and assist change. This is really hard for most of us because deep down, we really don’t like these people and they probably aren’t too fond of us either. Keep reminding yourself that noone wakes up in the morning and says, “I want to have a miserable day.” Remember too that they didn’t get like this overnight and they won’t change overnight either.

GET RID OF THEM – This really needs to be an option of last resort but it does need to be an option and they need to know it. Unacceptable behavior is unacceptable. Period. People who revel in their negative attitudes need to be invited to inflict themselves on your competitors. Besides if you don’t let them go guess who will leave? You got it. All of the people who want to build something positive. And when they’re gone what you have left aint’ gonna be pretty.

GET RID OF YOU – Yep, sometimes you have to admit that you can’t make a difference. If that negative person is the owner of the company or a senior staff person your chances of impacting them in your lifetime might be pretty slim. There comes a time when it’s best to say ‘Sayonara’ and find a better situation. Life’s too short to waste it on losing situations.

SURROUND YOURSELF WITH WINNERS – No matter what your situation it is important that you surround yourself with as many positive people as you can find. Call them your attitudinal braintrust or whatever. Find people who brighten your day, who inspire you, who give you hope, who just make you feel better about life and yourself….and spend as much time with them as possible.

In the meantime keep up the good fight and don’t let the *$%)@!#s get you down!