Our lives improve only when we take chances—and the first and most difficult risk we can take is to be honest with ourselves – WALTER ANDERSON Editor of Parade magazine for twenty years

As someone in a leadership position – whether you’re a trainer, corporate manager, MLM distributor with a downline, owner of a small business, manager of a sports team, or parent – you want your team to thrive while working together to generate great results.

That means you need to have a strong understanding of what’s working – as well as what’s not.

It’s sometimes tempting to focus only on the positives and ignore the negatives in the hope they’ll magically resolve themselves. On rare occasions, that actually happens. But far more often, a negative situation left untreated will fester and grow into something that threatens the health and performance of your entire team.

To create an environment where all of your team members work in complete alignment with each other, genuinely care for each other, and work together to accomplish incredible goals, there’s one incredibly important step you need to take:

You’ve got to face what isn’t working and deal with it ASAP

If you want to be a more successful leader, you have to get out of denial and face what isn’t working in your organization.

  • Do you defend or ignore how toxic your work environment is?
  • Do you make excuses for your team members’ poor performances?
  • Are you in denial about a personal conflict between individuals that’s negatively impacting the dynamics of the team?
  • Has a team member developed a bad attitude that’s affecting others?
  • Are you failing to acknowledge that sales or wins have been on a consistent downward trend for the last three months?
  • Are you putting off confronting an employee who isn’t delivering at an acceptable standard of performance?
  • Are you pretending not to notice all the people yawning in the audience when you make a presentation?

Successful leaders face these circumstances squarely, heed the warning signs, and take appropriate action, no matter how uncomfortable or challenging it might be.

Pay attention to the “yellow alerts”

Yellow alerts are the little signals you get that something’s not right.

People aren’t speaking up in meetings. Team members talking in low voices fall silent when you enter the room. When you make a presentation, people looked bored and disengaged. Sales are down for the third quarter in a row.

Sometimes we choose to acknowledge these alerts and take action, but more often than not, we simply choose to ignore them. We pretend not to notice that some- thing’s amiss.

Why? Because to face what’s not working in your team, organization, or own personal leadership means you’re going to have to do something uncomfortable.

You might have to confront somebody, risk not being liked, demand respect, let someone go, or maybe even quit your job. But if you aren’t willing to do these uncomfortable things, you’ll end up tolerating a situation that doesn’t work to the point where it causes serious damage.


Often we don’t even realize we are in denial. We use phrases such as these:

  • It’s none of my business.
  • I don’t want to rock the boat.
  • It’s just what guys do.
  • She’s going through a rough patch.
  • They’re just blowing off steam.
  • It’s been a bad month for everyone.
  • We just have to wait it out.

We diminish the problem and pretend it will go away – not realizing that if we just acknowledged the bad situation sooner, it would be less painful to resolve.

It would be cheaper, the circumstances would be more beneficial for everyone involved, the problems would be easier to solve, we would earn more respect as effective leaders, we would feel better about ourselves, and we would certainly have more integrity.

But to reach that goal, we have to get past our denial.

Successful leaders are more interested in finding out why things are going wrong and fixing them than they are in defending their own position or maintaining their ignorance.

They look at the hard truth in real numbers rather than recalculating the numbers to look good to the stockholders.

They want to know why the presentation didn’t grab their audience, why someone didn’t use their product or service, why the ad campaign didn’t work, why expenditures are unusually high. They are rational and in touch with reality.

They are willing to look at what is and deal with it rather than hide it and deny it. And they know that doing more of what doesn’t work will NEVER make it work any better.

Denial is based on fear

Any therapist will tell you that he or she has treated scores of patients who, in spite of overwhelming evidence, refuse to believe that their spouses are having an affair. They don’t want to face the fact that the marriage might be over – and they don’t want to deal with the emotional stress and the physical inconvenience of a divorce.

Same goes in a team environment… It’s hard for a manager to admit that his top-selling employee is a misogynist jerk who’s making the work environment toxic for his coworkers. Or for a speaker to admit that her presentation style bores people to tears. Or for the head of marketing to admit that the ad campaign flopped badly.

What are some of the situations YOU are afraid to deal with?

  • A coworker who always leaves early and dumps his late projects on his coworkers?
  • A team member who refuses to do her fair share of the work?
  • Colleagues who having an affair and doing a lousy job at hiding it?
  • Team members who consistently underperform?
  • Coworkers who form cliques and bully others?
  • Lukewarm responses to your presentations?

The good news is that the more you face uncomfortable situations, the better you get at it.
@JackCanfield (Click to Tweet!)

Once you have faced one thing that isn’t working – and dealt with it head on – the next time you discover there’s a problem you’ll be more likely to take action immediately and the mess will be much easier to clean up.

Take action right now

If you’d like to improve your team’s performance and help all your members thrive and do their best, take the time right now to make a list of what isn’t working in your organization.

Talk to the members of your team and ask them to comment on what they think isn’t working.

Ask them: How can we improve it? What requests can I make? What do you need from me? What do I/we need to do? What action steps can I/we take to get these situations to work the way I/we would like?

Take careful note of their suggestions and then decide on the action steps you’ll need to take to resolve the situation. Do you need to talk to someone? Call a repairperson? Bring in an expert to help? Learn a new skill? Find a new resource? Read a book? Call an expert? Make a plan to fix it?

  • Choose ONE action you can take this week to improve the situation and then DO it. Once you’ve completed that step, tackle the next action item on the list – and the next – until the situation is fully resolved.

If you have a great story about a time where YOU faced what wasn’t working, share it with us in the comments!

As the beloved originator of the Chicken Soup for the Soul® series, Jack Canfield fostered the emergence of inspirational anthologies as a genre—and watched it grow to a billion dollar market. As the driving force behind the development and delivery of over 100 million books sold through the Chicken Soup for the Soul® franchise, Jack Canfield is uniquely qualified to talk about success. Jack is America’s #1 Success Coach and wrote the life-changing book The Success Principles: How to Get From Where You Are to Where You Want to Be and speaks around the world on this subject. Follow Jack at www.jackcanfield.com and sign up for his free resources today!

Chicken Soup for the Soul 20th Anniversary Edition NOW AVAILABLE:

Image courtesy of Startup Stock Photos.