on attitudes

People are strange. We all are to some degree or other, but there are times when one or more will just be contrary; they will not accept the common belief in something. How you overcome that as a leader is something that you will have to come to terms with.

Take the current position on wearing masks whilst shopping. It was plain from the start that it was a good idea in general. Yes there are some problems, but if you wore a mask correctly and observed the readily available advice on wearing and disposing of same then you were going to be at less risk than without and were less likely to spread the plague if you didn’t know you had it.

Now it is compulsory unless you have genuine reasons for not wearing one, but there are plenty of people taking the “I’m not wearing one” stance. They all have their own reasons, but why defy a requirement, especially one that makes sense?

The internet, social media in particular, does not help for it is hardly the place for sensible debate let alone good advice. But if someone wants to believe something they will do so and will not be easily persuaded otherwise. I recall a case where we had found funds to refurbish the restaurant at a building that served around 1300 people daily. The original layout and furnishings were around 25 years old and very much on the lines of a 1950s works canteen, so a refresh was long overdue.

We did some consultation with the users and from that the architects came up with a new style. A display of the proposals was put up in the restaurant for people to see and comment on and I went along that day to get some direct feedback. “Where are we going to eat when all this happens?” was the first comment, so I asked what they meant. Surely it was obvious that everyone would continue to eat in the refurbished restaurant, but no, there was a strong feeling that the new layout was “too posh” and only designed for the select few; the “ordinary workers” would have to eat at their desks or find somewhere else to have their lunch. There was also a firm belief that prices would go up to levels that they could not afford despite a clear assurance that they would not.

Around 200, of the 1300, were convinced that they would not be allowed to come into the new restaurant and, once it opened, about 50 declined to use it in case they were refused service. They would not believe the evidence before their very eyes and you can do nothing about that sort of bigotry.

As a leader you try to take people with you, but you cannot allow yourself to be distracted by minorities. Spend time on them by all means, but don’t forget the majority who are with you all the way. If they think that you have lost interest in them you will loose them too. Attitudes can be changed and good leaders can do it with ease, but never forget the law of diminishing returns; spend your time one the people that are worth the investment and don’t waste too mucho in those that are not.

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