Eulogize Your Destructive Behaviors

I currently lead an organization with numerous teams operating at an incredibly high level.  The teams regularly outperform expectations, and when hiccups occur they take responsibility to lead their own improvement.  They are talented, engaged, positive, and well — wonderful.  I count my lucky stars every day.  One example of this is below.  We went through this fun little exercise recently to eulogize some bad behaviors.  Two leaders (Charlie Sweet and Patrick Gaynor) decided to honor the dearly departed.  Here is text from one of the speaker’s Eulogies — and both speakers comments were incredibly moving.

Eulogy for Cynical Bystander

I have a few warm memories I’d like to share about our friend , and then some thoughts on the legacy he left us.

Warm Memories

  • The way he was so good at overlooking the irony in his own actions. He would always tell us about those who complained to him, and his mantra to them was “don’t bring me problems, bring me solutions.” And then later in the same meeting, he would blame some other team for all the dysfunction in the organization, while doing nothing to help make the situation better.
  • How every time we needed someone to step up and suggest constructive ways to address real problems, he was always the first one to make a wisecrack about how the effort would be wasted because “those people” would never change.

Lasting Legacy

Yes, we had some good times, and he’ll be missed. But please remember that while he has died, some of the real gifts he gave us live on:

  • When Cynical Bystander spoke, we knew exactly what he really thought. It always seemed like he held nothing back. You knew what you were getting with Cynical Bystander. He lived out people’s ideal of the “straight shooter.”
  • A natural outgrowth of his gift of candor, the trust he helped us build as a team was (and remains) an important part of our team dynamic.
  • Man, he was funny. It seems like just the other day, I asked him if he’d be willing to present our idea to the boss. “What, you mean that good idea that would improve employee morale and save the company money? Why would anything that makes so much sense ever get approved?” he laughed. Needless to say, I did the presentation myself.

Letting Go

How do we move forward? How do we live without our friend?

First, let us not misunderstand who we bury today. We bury the cynical bystander. We bury the sharp wit that cuts down entire groups of people, with no positive action. We bury our grumbling hopelessness. If we will do nothing positive to improve a situation, let us remain silent about it. If we have something negative to say, let us say it, and then propose a way forward.

But we need not (we must not) lose these gifts that Cynical Bystander gave us.

Real problems must be named before they can be addressed. Candor is essential, and we must continue to be honest with each other.  Do not misunderstand who we bury. We are still able to acknowledge struggles we have with other people. We don’t have to be happy about everything. Let us continue to bring our struggles to the team, so that we can support each other. In so doing, we will hold onto the trust that flows from candor, which is the cornerstone of an effective team.

Finally, [pause, hold back tears] though it is difficult to imagine on a day like today, let us laugh. Humor will bring us closer together and build a sense of camaraderie. This is what our dear friend Cynical Bystander would have wanted.

Farewell, good friend.


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