For offsite trainings, I like to bring in outside speakers who bring a different perspective. At a recent sales team offsite, I brought in someone who spent 10 years as a Navy SEAL. There were a number of lessons he shared that are valuable for any professional to hear: perseverance, training, discipline, trust, teamwork, and so on.

But the one that resonated with me and the team most was when he talked about how much people in corporate America complain. When he was part of the SEALs, no one complained, ever. He told stories about men who fell during drills, and would still finish out their seven mile run on a fractured foot, and not complain. About men who got stung by sting rays while training, and how their legs swelled so large it made it difficult to walk, but they got up the next day, didn't complain, and did the drills like everyone else.

After 10 years of service, and multiple tours, he retired from the SEALs and joined corporate America. He said aside from not seeing combat and the obvious physicalness of his previous job, there was one main difference that stood out to him that he struggled to adapt to.  

He noticed how much people complain. He wasn't used to hearing it for 10 years, and now, it was all around him. Employees complaining about directives from their managers. Employees complaining about getting up early or staying late. Employees complaining about the perks in their offices, or lack thereof. They spent so much time complaining, that the things they needed to do could have already been done in the time it took them to complain. 

He couldn't believe it. People complaining about inconsequential things. And the worst part was, it started rubbing off on him. He found himself starting to complain about trivial things. 

If you are around someone with bad habits, they start to rub off. SEALs don't complain, so he never complained. His peers complained in corporate America, and now this SEAL is complaining. Even the best people, top producers, can be brought down by those around them. Negativity spreads fast and it’s hard to remedy once it’s made its way through the office. As leaders, we need to understand that and do all we can to ensure it doesn't happen. 

Look at your employees and ask yourself, who is a complainer? Who is a culture taker? Have you talked to them about it? Have you told them the impact they are having on their peers? And worse yet, have you talked to them and nothing has changed? It might be time for you to make a change, because if you don't, you risk impacting the performance of your top producers and allowing bad habits to perpetuate. 

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Published on: May 20, 2019
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