38-foot snake devours entire company

James R. Ball

A

I MADE AN investment in a new business venture. At the outset, everyone was optimistic. The initial euphoria lasted only about a year, however. That was when the initial seed money ran out and the company started having problems. From that point forward something vicious took hold of the company and began to grind it down. It began slowly at first, but soon the downward spiral plummeted faster and faster. In the end there was nothing left. The founders and employees of the company scattered into the job market never to be seen again, and my investment became a deduction on my tax return. Many factors contributed to the failure of the company, but there was one overriding ingredient that choked the company to death. It was a 38-foot snake.
NUMBER OF YEARS AGO THE GOALS INSTITUTE
GOALPOWER.COM • 703-264-2000

How could a 38-foot snake devour an entire company?
The 38-foot snake that devoured the company was an anaconda. An anaconda is a snake in the Amazon that grows to 38 feet in length. Anacondas coil around their kill so tightly their prey cannot take in fresh air. They literally squeeze out the breath of life of their victims. Then the anacondas devour them. The Anacondas In Life are the people and information sources that promote negativity, doubt, despair, and limitation thinking. The company I invested in was choked to death by the negative can't do attitude and the doubt and despair of the people in it. In the beginning everyone was optimistic. The president smiled and complimented individuals on their work. The vice president of sales sounded a siren when big orders were achieved. There were free donuts and Friday afternoons off when sales quotas were exceeded. But as financial and operating problems grew, the president withdrew behind closed doors. Communication within the company came to a halt. The company newsletter was abandoned and all training was stopped. When sales results fell short of the mark, the vice president of sales berated individuals for letting him down. He became sarcastic and cynical. If there was one main Anaconda in this company, he was it. He began killing ideas with skepticism before the ideas were even fully born. “Oh really?” was a sarcastic expression he acquired. “Quit living in a dream world” was another. In time, the people on the sales team grew weary of being beaten down when trying to offer solutions. As their ideas dried up, so did their energy and enthusiasm for the company. There were many contributing elements to the company’s demise, but the central factor was that the members of management were not strong enough and sufficiently skilled to remain positive in the face of adversity. They became reclusive and reactive rather than forceful in creating and maintaining a constructive environment.

Being positive is not always the easy choice
We live in a world that manufactures negative information. Our newspapers and media thrive on it. If there isn't a readily available disaster, scandal, heinous crime, or major dip in the market, efforts will be made to find one. We wake up to bad news on the radio and television, read it in our newspapers and ezines, and see it again on the late night news. When you add company changes, downsizing, and operating problems to the external onslaught of negativity, the natural tendency is to join in and be negative. Individuals start complaining and telling each other they are overwhelmed and stressed, foretelling their own misfortunes. It is often easier and more in to be negative than to be positive. It is easier to find fault with individuals than to find their strengths. It is easier to agree it can't be done than to find ways to do it.

Whose job is it to create a positive, Anaconda-Free environment?
Just about anyone can promote a positive environment when things are going well. It's a no brainer to buy donuts on Fridays when sales quotas are being met. Sounding a siren for big orders is an almost obvious action to take. But what about when things aren't going so swimmingly? What are the leaders of a company supposed to do when sales quotas are missed? What steps should executives take when the people in their organizations become preoccupied with doom and gloom? Should the managers cut costs and forget the celebrations? Should management join in the negative discussions? I don't think so. I think it is management's responsibility to maintain a positive and inspiring environment in both good times and in bad. It is management's responsibility to remove Anacondas from their organizations including negative vice presidents of sales. It is management's responsibility to create and maintain a positive Anaconda-free environment.

THE GOALS INSTITUTE
GOALPOWER.COM • 703-264-2000

How to fend off the Anacondas
I had the opportunity to meet a business owner who was very successful in the financial services industry. A millionaire many times over, this man’s business was growing and vibrant and his team of people was superb. When I asked him what he attributed his business success to, he fired back his answer instantly. “I manage our environment,” he said. I wasn't sure I had heard him correctly. “You manage your environment?” I asked. “That's right,” he said. “My main job is to manage the environment our people work in.” One of his techniques was to provide his associates with an ongoing series of books, tapes, seminars, and newsletters on the subjects of leadership, motivation, and management. Surprisingly, this man told me that it wasn't until his twelfth year in business that he realized he had built an organization comprised of mostly mediocre individuals, many who were negative. He said he suddenly realized the only way he would ever be able to build a truly great company was to hire quality people with positive attitudes. At that juncture, he started weeding out his Anaconda non-performers and began recruiting only positive can-do Dream Sowers. Then his business really began to soar.

Did he overreact? Was he “thin skinned?” All I know is that he is a sensitive man with good ideas. Thin skinned or not, he is a real contributor, but he needs encouragement now and then to keep on going and to keep on creating. And don't we all? In many ways we have become dulled to the reality that the people we come in contact with are living human beings. We are human beings, not machines. We have feelings, emotions, and needs. One of those needs is for encouragement by our peers and the environment we are in. When someone approaches you with a new idea, what is your response? Do you perk up, smile, and say “neat idea, tell me more about it.” Or do you tell them you don't have time now and ask them to see you sometime next week?

One final note
Perhaps your parents told you what my parents told me many times: “If you don't have anything nice to say, then don't say anything.” I used to think their advice was just for kids, but I've been rethinking my view on this lately. Maybe it's pretty good advice regardless of how old we are. What do you think?

Are you an Anaconda or are you a Dream Sower?
It is doubtful that any of us really wants to be an Anaconda in Life, but unfortunately, sometimes we unknowingly are. I once observed a friend of mine, a high school teacher, get his dream snatched away over a cookie. At a reception, he went up to the principal at the punch bowl and commented that he had been working on a new course. “It's really revolutionary,” he began, only to have the principal interrupt him with this: “Oh look! Chocolate chip cookies.” The principal piled cookies onto his plate and walked away. My friend was so discouraged by this blow that he quietly left the reception and never did go back to his work on the course.

Join our campaign, send for your free sticker
We have a campaign to stamp out the Anacondas in Life and we call it the AnacondaFree Zone. To promote our campaign, we've had Anaconda-Free Zone stickers printed. They're fun and they remind us to encourage each other. If you'd like a set of 4 stickers, send us a stamped, self-addressed envelope to 1850 Centennial Park Drive, Suite 450, Reston, VA 20191. ___________
Copyright © 1996 – 2001 The Goals Institute All rights reserved

JAMES R. BALL is president of The Goals Institute where he and his associates produce learning tools and provide keynote speeches and executive seminars on leadership, performance improvement, and business goal achievement.

THE GOALS INSTITUTE
GOALPOWER.COM • 703-264-2000

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