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Are You a Riser or Sinker?

Every team I’ve ever managed had at least one. You know the person I’m talking about. We have created a whole nomenclature to identify them: Debbie Downer, Negative Nelly, Pessimistic Pete, Sarcastic Sam. Please, no offense to the Debbies, Petes, Nellys and Sams that are reading this. In fact, there is a frequent reader named Debra who calls herself “the Princess” … she is no downer. The people we’re referring to are considered the “glass-half-empty” types. These are the people who can find difficulty or problems in any situation. They are the type who would win the lottery but instead of being happy, they complain about the tax obligation that comes with winning. Get the picture?

Nick Nowak is the director of student life at Cardigan Mountain School and is the founder of GoodMenders, LLC. In a recent article for SmartBrief, Nowak provides some self-analysis questions to determine if you are a riser or a sinker. You can take the entire quiz here, but I’ve pulled a couple of questions for your review. We’re instructed to choose the best option, A or B that best describes you:

a. I try to make the best of a bad situation.

b. I focus on what went wrong to cause a bad situation.

a. The most important part of problem-solving is coming up with a solution.

b. The most important part of problem-solving is pointing out the problem.

a. I need to step up my game for my teammates.

b. My teammates need to step up their game.

a. I believe in working toward a consensus.

b. I believe in persuading others to do what I think is right.

If you have more A answers than B, you’re a riser. If you have more B answers than A, you’re a sinker. Understand, we all have times when we can be one or the other – nobody is perfect. Even those people in your life who seem always upbeat have ‘those days.’ Nowak writes:

Sinkers are an unavoidable part of living and doing business—and they are essential. Back in 1917, Freud believed that the melancholy person had “a keener eye for the truth than other people who are not melancholic.”

Sinkers will point out brutal facts. In doing so, they provide the opportunity for others to rise. The key is making sure the pool is not filled with sinkers.

The good news is a sinker or two can help the organization if there is strong leadership to keep them in check. They can help them shift from pointing out problems, which they are very good at, to creating solutions in a collaborative environment. The more risers you have on the team, the more sinkers you can tolerate because they can balance each other out and both can provide value to the organization.

If we’re honest, risers are more fun to be around. They don’t believe they are better than others, which is a characteristic of a sinker, but a riser makes others feel and do better by building them up. Being a riser requires making the right choice more often than the wrong one. Maybe this is why my mother’s advice when dealing with a negative person was always, “Don’t sink to their level.” Maybe she was onto something.

Rise up and enjoy your weekend!

Jeff Schmidt is the SVP of Professional Development. You can reach him at Jeff.Schmidt@RAB.com. You can also connect with him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Source: Jeff Schmidt, RAB