Overcoming Team Negativity: 3 World Series Leadership Lessons

Negativity can crush a team faster than anything. Have you ever been guilty of being negative at work? It happens and you have to be careful because negativity can be habit-forming and contagious! You can learn three valuable leadership lessons from the Houston Astros and their struggle to rebound after losing the first two games of the World Series. How you respond when the going gets tough says a lot about your leadership skills and your team’s full potential. Here are three things you can do to stay positive in the face of adversity!

“Our environment, the world in which we live and work, is a mirror of our attitudes and expectations.”   – Earl Nightingale


Managing your emotional state when things go south is not always the easy choice, but it is a choice you make daily. All it takes is one or two team members spreading negative thought viruses to contaminate the emotional state of the entire team. The Houston Astros players could have easily gone negative after key players made huge mistakes during the first two games of the World Series. Instead, they stayed positive and complimented their teammates. During media interviews they bragged on their teammates capabilities and talked about how they were going to turn things around.

The brain is a muscle and like any muscle it can be trained to respond to “triggers”. Emotional triggers happen throughout the workday. They can be almost anything: a co-worker’s voice tone you interpret as inappropriate, an email that ticks you off or a decision that conflicts with your belief or expectation. Triggers result in instant physical symptoms, such as a shift in breathing, heaviness in your chest, a shut-down of peripheral vision and other neurological responses. 

Triggers result in instant physical symptoms, such as a shift in breathing, heaviness in your chest, a shut-down of peripheral vision and other neurological responses.  – Gail Borden

The first step to re-training your brain is awareness as triggers are occurring. Once you recognize them, then you have a choice. One option we offer during leadership coaching is to choose a “default thought” as soon as a trigger occurs. A default thought might be, “Oh, this is interesting. Let me step back a minute and consider this.” Another option is to “break state”. This means you find an excuse to remove yourself momentarily from the situation, before your emotions run wild out of the gate. The bottom line is that you can re-train your brain to choose a useful emotional state instead of letting your emotions dictate your state!


Our grandmother used to say, “Just nip it in the bud”, when my sisters and I started acting out. The saying comes from growers who “nip” new buds on plants or trees to stop their development. The goal is to train the plant to put its energies to more productive uses. This is great advice when gossip or negative talk starts on your team. Otherwise, employee morale, productivity and happiness will take a nosedive. Studies prove that just as happiness spreads, so does negativity!

Recently we were conducting leadership coaching and one of the team leaders admitted that negativity had seeped into the team. The organization is growing, which is resulting in new pressures, new personalities and new challenges. Their cozy world is being turned upside down. We helped this leader realize how she is uniquely positioned to nip the negativity in the bud and infuse the team with the positivity and energy it needs to thrive. If left unchecked, negativity sucks you in. It becomes habitual and spreads like poison ivy. So does gossip!

It is easier to stay positive when you understand the difference between Problem Framed and Solution Framed language. For example, Problem Frame language is, “We don’t have enough time or help, and this project is doomed.” You can communicate the same idea with Solution Framed language by saying, “We need more time or a change in our work habits to make this project a success. Let’s brainstorm some possibilities.” Solution Frame language moves the team toward solutions instead of dwelling on the negative. 

 “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.”  Proverbs 17:22


Whether or not you are aware of it, daily you are living out your identity at home and work. What is your identity? It can often be discovered through others; what phrase do your teammates use to describe you? For example, would your peers describe you as “A go-getter,” or would they say, “She is a consensus builder.” Or “He’s a nay-sayer.” 

You should not leave your professional identity up to other people or some sort of haphazard fate. Instead, give thought to “who” you want to be known as in the workplace. If you don’t plan your identity, you will be given one. So, a good exercise is to write down three characteristics you would like to be known for on your team. Make a list of “I am” statements and see which ones resonate with the type of human, team member or leader you aspire to be. Your identity statements are important because they can impact if you take a positive or negative approach in the workplace.

“It is never too late to be what you might have been.” – George Eliot


More Homeruns With Positives!

Studies show that happiness spreads and once you develop the habit of spreading positivity, you can impact everything: team morale, productivity and your own personal life! You can boost your career and team by developing strategies to manage your emotions, words and thoughts each day. The Houston Astros have provided a great example by keeping their heads up and their eyes on the prize by staying positive and focused. So, the next time you find your team being pulled into stressful or negative situations, choose wisely!

Other Leadership Articles:

The Power of Gestures: 3 Tips for Speakers

Decision-Making Strategies for Leaders

Words That Create Walls – The Impact of Negative Vs. Positive Words

The Best Media Spokespersons – What They Do Differently


Gail lives on a Texas ranch with her family, five talented horses, one very cute donkey and an entertaining pack of dogs, cats and chickens! We support a horse therapy program for people with disabilities, as well as local animal shelters that rescue abandoned dogs and cats.

Benchmark has consulted with and coached leaders and associates from all 50 USA states and more than 25 countries. The Benchmark team provides award-winning leadership and communication strategies to Fortune 500 groups so they can achieve their business goals. We provide consulting, training and coaching services in: leadership development, storytelling / presentations, reputation management, crisis response, media skills, stakeholder engagement, effective communications, public speaking and soft skills training.