People Solutions – Builders and Destroyers

Still Just Two Types of People

If you have read this newsletter for any length of time, been to one of our seminars or worked with the JP Horizons team in the past 15 years you are certainly familiar with two old friends we call the Builder and the Destroyer.

Builder and DestroyerI have found in all of those years every type of audience, from Outdoor Living Professionals to Window Cleaners to Health Care Professionals to educators to bank executives to senior citizens and college students…everyone relates with the silly characters I draw on the flip chart or show on the screen. Our lives, no matter who we are, are made up of various situations that come from dealing with these two types of people.

In thinking about the newsletter this week and the pressures of springtime schedules that so many of our readers are going through, I could not resist the opportunity to reacquaint all of us again with these characters that have meant so much to so many of us as we continue to improve our lives and the lives of others. If you are like me, it is never too soon to take another look at the qualities of each to focus on being a Builder once again.


Builder Choices
Destroyer hates . . .

Moments of Truth

Choice PointsOne of the things we talk about in the seminars is finding ways to identify the Builders and Destroyers in your life and then focusing on surrounding yourself with Builders. Since we can all be Destroyers on any given day, we want to not only give them a break but also inspire them to greater things. Our first choice is always to help a Destroyer feel better about him or herself and help them develop Builder qualities. We are often faced, however, with chronic Destroyers who have no intention of changing for anyone and who revel in their own negative attitudes. It often takes a conscious effort to shield ourselves from the Destroyers in our lives who merely bring down the morale of everyone they meet. The Chronic Destroyer in the workplace can be overlooked for months or sometimes even years until you are enlightened to whom they really are. Once you know the qualities of both the Builder and Destroyer, it is no longer easy to look the other way and ignore the problem staring you in the face as the Destroyer sets out to do what he does best…DESTROY. At this point of awareness, you can see that “DESTROYER” is written all over their faces and clearly identified in what they say, what they do and how they react to the Builders around them.

I was reminded of a story someone told me years ago about a creative approach to identifying Builders and Destroyers in a safety meeting. This particular morning the leaders knew something had to change or everyone’s time was going to be wasted. Surrounded by disinterested employees, he knew the success of this meeting was not only at stake, but it could very likely set the tone for future training sessions.

“Everybody follow me!” he said as he began walking around the outdoor training area. His walk became faster and led to a jog. Before long he was in a full-out run and the majority of the group was charging after him laughing, shouting, hair flying in the wind. When they all stopped, he simply thanked everyone who was willing to follow, built on the energy gained in the exercise and went on with his training.

Builders running to finish line

No one knew at the time how important this impromptu exercise was to the future of the company or how much it had revealed to the person leading it. What had innocently begun as a simple effort to wake up the group became the shining light not only on the Builders in the crowd but also some Destroyers who had been plaguing the company for months and in some cases even years. Reactions to his silly exercise simply pointed out what he and other leaders had not been willing to recognize and deal with in the past. As the group began to “follow,” there was no question where the attitude problems were, as well as the future leaders in the company. The model Builders were up immediately and simply took off with an open mind, anxious to see what this crazy guy was up to. When he asked some afterward why they had tried to keep up, he heard, “I just wanted to follow your lead.” “I’m not sure why.” Another responded, “I’m a competitor and wanted to beat you.” In fact, his right-hand man was running so close they were nearly touching. There was also a group that hesitated and then gained momentum and belief as more people participated. This group not only learned from the initiative of others but also realized the mistake of those who simply rebelled. They may in fact be those who benefited the most as they have gone on to become even better employees since that day.

Two people with arms crossedAnd then there were the Destroyers in the crowd. Sitting in the back, arms folded, cynical looks, negative comments and feet planted, staying put…right where they were…not going anywhere for anybody! One even left and went to the restroom. When the activity ended and everyone else filed to their seats energized and laughing at the experience, the Destroyers in the crowd slowly strolled to their seats and flopped into place.

John, our leader, had heard me speak at some point and knew that his little experiment had clearly identified who the Builders and Destroyers were. Even though the rest of the group had not yet been taught the concepts, it was glaringly obvious to everyone that the team was divided in two by the attitudes and actions they had exhibited.

The story doesn’t end here, however. John and his boss didn’t let the discoveries from that day fade back into to the woodwork only to be ignored and covered up or to be dealt with another day. They made a bold choice, a courageous move, a step forward for themselves as leaders and for the company as a whole. By the end of the next week, each of the individuals who had clearly identified themselves as Destroyers was gone from the company.

comic about bad attitude“They were people who should have been gone years before, and this experience made our decision to move on without these individuals an easier choice.” The interesting thing was that it was just as obvious to those leaving as it was to the leadership there. They did not receive one claim against the company for dismissal and the entire team is now better for it.

“It’s worth taking a good hard look at your people and finding out who is willing to go beyond the norm to chase you around a parking lot. Why not do something down right silly and learn from the experience?”

John has gone on to teach the entire team about Builders and Destroyers, and it is making a huge difference in culture of an already great company.

Destroyer Turnaround

Destroyer Upside DownOf course few people are chronic Destroyers, and great leaders know the best way to build a team is to learn how to help Destroyer attitudes on any given day. Do you want to help Destroyers turn their attitude around? Take opportunities to give the Destroyer more responsibility rather than taking it away. By working beside them to understand their strengths as well as their weaknesses and showing by example that “we can do it!” when pessimism creeps in, the Destroyer can be inspired by example while having ownership over the final outcome. Builders earn and take responsibility for great work and when you throw a problem back at a Destroyer and ask them for the solution they become empowered, and Builder qualities often surface and create results everyone is proud of.

As one reader said in a question in this newsletter, “Turning around the Destroyer? . . . That’s the $64,000 question. The 80/20 rule still applies to Destroyers . . . you’ve got to build on that 20% . . . change them (impossible). Change me (possible). Change my contribution to the conversations I have with them. Change the way I think about them. Is it really worth the time? Of course it is. ‘Impossible’ just takes a little longer.

“Who is it that sees the world as it really is? Builders are visionaries and dreamers . . . bring the vision and the dreams out in the Destroyer and everybody wins. Ask them how they would like things to be and what it would be like if that happened. Then they will see it in their mind’s eye. Maybe they just never looked with that eye before. Maybe they have in the past and have forgotten how to do it again. Maybe they’re not blind in one eye and can’t see out the other . . . they just need some new lenses.”

Ah, and we could not have said it better ourselves! Thanks to all of you that have inspired us to focus on the Destroyer Turnaround with purpose.

A Look in the Mirror

Builder in a MirrorIt is good to remember that it’s easy at times to see everyone else as a Destroyer. In fact, at times when you feel like you are completely surrounded by this negative lot, you might just want to stop and take a look in the Builder Mirror to make sure you haven’t joined them in their misery.

As Destroyers stomp in and out of your daily life expending tons of energy just to make sure we know how miserable they are or how bad they have it, watch your step as well. We can see them as close-minded, short-sighted, self-indulgent individuals who are focused on themselves and be the very same thing in our own judgmental attitudes. As you strive to Build the Builder in yourself, make a habit of regarding the Destroyers in your life as people with needs who are currently unable to handle a situation that they find to be difficult. Even if we can’t change the way they act, we can always control the way we respond and maybe influence their behavior in the process.

Builder Tips and Destroyer Traps

Builder Tip and Destroyer TrapOne fun tool used to build energy and great attitudes in the weekly lesson plans for the Working Smarter Training Challenge is the Builder Tip and Destroyer Trap posters. Each week the lesson taught is reinforced from the perspective of the Builder and the Destroyer, and hundreds of companies have completely changed the culture of their companies through the constant reminders found on these simple posters.

Builder Tip: BUILDERS are always willing to accept the challenge. With big eyes, they look into the future knowing that the effort put forth today on a new project or idea can pay back big dividends for the company, the customers and themselves.
Destroyer Trap: DESTROYERS only see the negative of an idea. They fear the change, the accountability, the effort and the energy that will go into making improvements in a company. With little eyes, they cannot see past the current moment that they are in.

Builder Tip: BUILDERS have an incredible ability to see the positives in every situation. They can accept in their company and life that good things are taking place and are constantly looking to find them.
Destroyer Trap: DESTROYERS will constantly work at focusing on the negative. This negative focus becomes an excuse DESTROYERS use to duck the responsibility of making improvements or having a positive impact in the company.

Builder Tip: A BUILDER always looks for the best in people and knows that the most important factor in gaining respect is . . . giving respect.
Destroyer Trap: A DESTROYER tries to gain respect without being respectable and then will complain the longest and the loudest about not getting it to anyone who will listen.

Builder Tip: A BUILDER knows that things are not perfect and is not afraid to see the CURRENT STATE with the all its positives and negatives as the first step in making improvements.
Destroyer Trap: DESTROYERS accept the CURRENT STATE as good enough and refuse to see the things they may be able to improve because they are afraid to admit it as a deficiency on their part or that it may mean that change will need to take place.

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