The Company You Keep by Jim Johnson

When you become a leader, your associations will change – and the dynamics of your associations will change. The higher up the leadership ladder, the more changes you can expect to see in your relationships with your coworkers.

If you’ve been promoted up the ranks or if you’ve been hired from outside of the company, you may see people take on certain relationship roles surrounding you and your position. Some help. Some are not so helpful.

“Yes Man/Woman”

This person will simply agree with everything you say or do. In some cases, they will get you to think you can walk on water. They laugh at your jokes – even when the jokes aren’t funny. They will always be upbeat around you and will rarely, if ever, challenge you or bring you bad news.

Danger: these folks cloud your reality. Life isn’t a party. Work is not a social event. Things can get ugly. Things can get messy. When they do, these folks tend to scatter. You cannot afford to become blind to a downward trend or a poor performance of key employees.

Turn it around: be sure to keep reality in your focus and in theirs. If they are your direct reports, continually focus on their results and the behaviors that they are either getting or not getting. Don’t let the frivolity of their interactions cloud accomplishment.


This person will focus on the worse possible scenarios. They are the “Negative Nellies and Neds”. They are skillful at bringing clouds to a perfectly beautiful day.

Danger: these folks drain your energy and the energy of your team and company. Some people are “tuned” this way. But if left alone, these folks can have a significant negative impact on you.

Turn it around: be sure to keep reality in your focus and in theirs. That’s right! Stay focused. Are bad things happening in your company or on your team? Perhaps. But ask this Eeyore, “what are your suggestions to turn this around?” Press them for positive action that will result in success. If they can verbally share something and then put those words into action, help them develop a more positive attitude by building them up. If they are frozen in their negativity, then have a courageous conversation with them and put an action plan in place that will develop them into a more valuable team member.


This person acts/talks a certain way around you, but they become a very different person when you’re not around. You think they’ve got their marching orders from you, but then they’re off doing their own thing – maybe even undermining your authority. And everyone else sees this happening.

Danger: these folks are toxic and do far more damage than good. They show you disrespect. They have their own agenda. They are not a team player. They play people against people – and you, as their leader, are typically one of these pawns. They are experts at deflecting attention off of their lack of performance and/or bad attitude/character, and they make sure you see the down side of everyone else.

Turn it around: don’t spend a lot of time with these people. I say this because this type of person will work hard to stay close to you. Proximity helps them create the reality THEY want you to see. When you are around them, continually ask them how they are performing. Ask them for the results they are producing. Have them demonstrate their results via reports, not mere stories. When they want to talk about others (and they will – they love to gossip), inform them, “Those other people are my responsibility. It’s not appropriate for us to discuss them or their performance. I’m all ears to discuss how you are helping move our company forward, but we’re not going to talk about others and your perceptions of their effectiveness. That’s my job, not yours.” Be a broken record on this point.

More on the company you keep in a later post….

Thanks for visiting and reading “Go Leader, Grow!” I truly appreciate it. I trust you are finding value in the articles I find, share, and sometimes write.

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