Lead Limiters and Liberators to Arrive the Same Place


When we arrive at a point in our lives where we need to make some personal changes, one of the first things we often do is take a look at our friends.  Which ones will support our reinvention, we wonder? Which ones might hold us back, or even sabotage our efforts?

But what about at work? Even if you head up your department, business unit, or entire organization, you don’t have total control over the positivity mix of your workplace population.  Your group is inevitably made up of both:

  • Liberators (those basically positive people who will bring energized enthusiasm and innovation to any project – especially those initiatives that will make your business hugely successful) and
  • Limiters (the fundamentally negative team members who will hold you back for any number of reasons – fear, jealousy, a belief that the universe is essentially a hostile place, etc.).

Believe it or not: You want a workplace with a healthy mix of both personalities. Without Limiters in place to put the brakes on Liberator initiatives that aren’t well thought-out, you’ll end up with an enterprise that will quickly deplete itself with what former Fed chairman Alan Greenspan has called “irrational exuberance.”  But you also don’t want the Limiters sucking the life out of your spirited culture and demoralizing your Liberators.

As the group’s leader, it’s up to you to balance the mix and inspire them to work together, leveraging all talents and life philosophies.  Here’s how to do it:

Identify and promote the behaviors that create the mutually supportive, trust-based team spirit that you aspire to. For instance, team members hear each other out fully before judging each others’ ideas. Team members cheer each other on and support their hard work.  Team members freely share knowledge and inside information that will help each other advance.

Give Limiters tasks that will make them feel better about the risks that your company may take.  Much of the negativity that you hear from Limiters is really fear that you hear. And can you blame them? With companies folding and people losing their jobs all over the country, Limiters who tend to jump to negativity have a point.  Assign your Limiters projects that will ultimately allay their fears or validate their concerns.  Ask them, for instance, to research market statistics that will create a snapshot of the demand for your new project or service idea.  Or put them in charge of surveys. But keep them away from brainstorming groups, if it’s possible that their negativity would cast a shadow over meetings and skew the results.

Revise your recruitment and interviewing questions to source more Liberators.  You can shift the mix toward positivity every time you need to replace a Limiter with a new employee.  If you want more Liberators, frame your questions to give candidates the chance to exhibit their optimism, creativity, innovation and team philosophy. Ask your candidates to give you examples of how their past work achieved the kinds of breakthrough accomplishments that demonstrate commitment and motivation.  Liberators will have those kinds of stories at their fingertips.  And they’ll be delighted to share them with you!

As you work to transform your life and career, one of your first happy discoveries is how much control you really do have. Including  determining which people you allow into your inner circle. Once you learn how to balance your Liberators and Limiters – tempering their extremes and channeling their influence – you’ll be able to take your enterprise to truly life-changing heights!

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