I picked up my wife recently from the airport after she had gotten in on an overnight flight. We intended to head straight home after, but we decided to stop at a grocery store to be pick up a few items. After loading the car with groceries, we got in and the car would not start.
Assuming it was a dead battery, I called AAA battery service and a technician came to test the battery. Surprisingly, the battery tested fine according to his device. However, the technician informed us that the problem was with the alternator. I reached out to a mechanic who recommended that I buy a new alternator and he would install it for us. We purchased the new alternator and had it installed as per his instructions.
With the new alternator in place, we tried starting the car again, hopeful that it would work this time. However, to our frustration, the car still wouldn't start. It turned out that due to the previous alternator's failure, the battery had been completely drained of power. I then went and bought a new battery and had it installed. The car still wouldn’t start.
The mechanic surmised that this was because when the battery went out, the car’s key was deprogrammed and disconnected to the ignition. To fix the issue, the key had to be reprogrammed so that it could be reconnected with the car. We then had the car towed to a dealership for them to reprogram the key. After the reprogramming process was completed, we were finally able to start the car without any issues.
Reflecting on this experience, I couldn't help but draw a parallel between the importance of personnel selection for a team of any kind and the functioning of a car's operating system. One bad personnel selection who carries influence over others can be like the bad alternator that drained the energy out of the battery. As the battery lost its power, the car’s key then became deprogrammed and disconnected from the ignition.
Therefore, it is crucial to carefully select team members who possess not only the necessary skills but also exhibit positive character traits and a cooperative attitude. By doing so, you can avoid the potential pitfalls that can arise from one individual's negative influence and maintain a harmonious, productive team environment. On the other hand, choosing individuals who are skilled, motivated, and aligned with the team's goals can lead to greater success and harmony.
One example of a “bad alternator” is a person who not only is guided by negative narratives but also actively spreads them throughout the team. Their limiting beliefs can permeate the group, leading to a collective sense of resignation and giving up before even attempting to take action. The toxic environment created by this negativity undermines the motivation and confidence of team members, making it difficult for them to overcome challenges and achieve their goals.
As the negative narratives become pervasive, team members find can themselves trapped in a perpetual state of inaction. Instead of proactively pursuing solutions, they become paralyzed by self-doubt and fear of failure. This inaction stifles innovation, hinders progress, and creates a culture of complacency within the team. Moreover, these "bad alternators" actively discourage, undermine, and even sabotage those who are trying to take action, further exacerbating the negative impact on the team.
Carriers of alternative positive narratives must push back against the influence of "bad alternators" with an attitude of proactive action. An example of this pushback against limiting beliefs that lead to perpetual inaction is an attitude of “if we fail, we’re going to fail in action. We are not going to fail because of inaction.” If a “bad alternator” does not want to be an executor, that’s fine, but don’t get in the way of those who are trying to execute. By fostering a culture of collaboration and resilience, teams can overcome the stifling effects of "bad alternators" and regain their momentum.
Personnel selection plays a critical role in mitigating the impact of "bad alternators." During the recruitment process, it is essential to identify candidates who possess a growth mindset, demonstrate positive attitudes, and exhibit strong interpersonal skills. These individuals can serve as catalysts for change within the team, inspire others to overcome obstacles, and introduce new narratives that promote optimism, innovation, and productivity. With the right mindset and cohesive teamwork, teams can overcome the obstacles posed by "bad alternators" and unlock their full potential.
Dr. Marcus Bright is the author of Brighter Ways Forward: Reflections on Sports, Tech, and Socioeconomic Mobility