Go ahead, use those evil powers for good: Unite your team through negative brainstorming

Times are tough, the chips are down, your team’s morale is at an all-time low. Now What?

Times are tough, the chips are down, your team’s morale is at an all-time low and now this: another decision made on high and handed down for your team to implement. You want to be a positive leader and rally the troops, but the idea has obvious flaws and your team is circling the wagons of resistance. Now what? 


Resist the urge to storm the powers that be and to make demands for reconsideration. Turn instead to focus on your team. Harness their energy and move them from resistance to flawless execution. 

Here’s how . . .

I call it “Negative Brainstorming.”

First, listen closely to your team as you present new ideas and decisions. Some resistance is to be expected and should not stop the action of moving forward. But if the resistance is large or if even your most positive players are sharing concerns about the idea, it’s time to jump in and lead.

Next, introduce the “rules” of brainstorming in the negative. Each individual should introduce their concerns, one at a time, while you document them in front of the group. The rest of the group should refrain from discussion, critique or disagreement. All “issues” with the new decision or idea are put up in front of the group. Continue until the group has exhausted their list of concerns and all are documented.  

Title the list of concerns “Risks.” Point out that all concerns are simply risks and the power of the team, the true value they can add, is in risk mitigation. 


For each risk, use the knowledge of the team to honestly evaluate the probability of the concern actually manifesting itself. For each risk, identify a probability of High, Medium or Low. 

Finally, to complete your analysis, evaluate the impact of each risk, again labeling each one High, Medium or Low.

Now, it’s time for the magic of Reality-Based Leadership.Take all the energy that the team was putting into their resistance of the decision and use that energy instead to create strategies to mitigate each risk that is of Medium to High probability or Medium to High impact. You have led the team from a mindset of resistance (value-depleting) to a new mindset of risk mitigation (value-adding). 

Work to build your team’s tolerance of less-than-perfect decisions made, and capitalize on market opportunities by building their confidence in their amazing ability to mitigate risk in order to deliver great solutions and insulate customers from any possible downside of the decision. 

Teams that can move from using their expertise to resist and editorialize and instead use those same talents and expertise to “make it work”are the teams that successfully position themselves as valuable assets and credible witnesses. As the team that consistently helps the powers that be pulloff the near impossible, they are the ones who end up with the most credibility when providing feedback and ways to improve the idea, making it cheaper,quicker, easier or smarter. Most important, teams that consistently implement great results with little emotional expense to the organization are seen in avery positive light. Pretty good team positioning in a world in which leaders are searching high and low for their next team to cut that will impact the organization the least. 

So, want to do all you can to help your team in these challenging times? Jump in and get negative with your team, but only long enough to lead them forward to create great results and succeed in spite of today’s challenging circumstances. 


Try it. Use your negative powers for good, not evil. Oh yeah. . . now the results are trickling back in – nice save. 

Remember you rock and Cy rocks!

Lead on my friend.